Notes: Björk “Biophilia” Live @ Hollywood Palladium, June 2, 2013
At this point, coming up on twenty years into a solo career, more or less having achieved living legend status, nearly peerless as an international multimedia pop artist, fans (tonight, a motley mix—pockets of club kids, stiff artist types, lesbian couples, KROQ lookieloos) understand they’re in for a unique experience with a Bjork show. This one though, the first Biophilia performance in LA, finally, almost two years after that album’s arrival, promises even more than usual right from the get go.
Just taking in the preshow room: a round stage set up at the center of the Palladium floor, around the perimeter five instrument stations, including a “pendulum gravity harp”, an classical harp and two zones of the percussion and synth/laptop controls. Above the stage, a ring of 8 double-sided HD monitors arranged in an octagonal crown looping squiggly line art while an instrumental track hums in the background.
An 18-strong ladies choir breaks open the proceedings with an otherworldly acapella, like a incantation to the muses, then Björk bounds on stage, donning the gigantic orange ‘fro familiar from the Biophilia cover. After introductor narration by David Attenborough describing the music-nature-technology mission of the album (he introduces each Biophila song played; the album is not played in order as one block but broken up a bit among older songs) then it’s Thunderbolt, and a “Tesla coil synth” descends from the ceiling to burp out it’s chunky bassline. Not a bad start.
From there it’s a mix of the whole of Biophilia, its delicate textures and wide dynamics—from sparse harp solo arrangements to heavy synth and cracking jungle breaks–infused with impressive force and beauty by these players. Moon and Crystalline in particular shine. The music-nature-technology theme flowing through the music, the lyrics, the performances, the visuals is rich and seamless; in her hands feels completely accessible and organic and does not feel pretentious or academic in the least.
Some old tracks mixed in—Pagan Poetry, Where Is The Line, Possibly Maybe–are arranged beautifully with the current band, alternately building on the original versions by adding the choir or stripping the originals down to sometimes only harp. After a break, a three-song encore, ending with an inspiring (and timely) take on her anti-authoriarian anthem Declare Independence. She, along with the choir army, implores “Declare independence/ Don’t let them do that to you/ Raise your flag/ Higher, higher”. Bjork has long since accomplished this; it’s the audience’s turn.
Björk plays one last Biophilia show at the Hollywood Palladium on June 8 and headlines the Hollywood Bowl on June 11.
Photos by Debi Del Grande