When The Sugarcubes first embarked on their musical voyage under the slogan ‘World Domination or Death,’ few people expected them (or more accurately, one of them, although many of the ‘Cubes still work closely with Björk) to live up to the hype. Now the world at large is more familiar with Björk than with Iceland, and in the process, she has become a symbol for the Icelandic plan for world domination (Operation Ice Storm). As much as we would all like to pretend that a Björk concert is solely about the music, it is anything but. A large part of the audience was there simply to witness the event, rather than to listen to the concert.
Björk stepped on stage wearing a gold puffed-out dress that actually made her resemble a character from Giles Reed’s The Munch Bunch, although that may have no relevance here at all. A small army of stage performers, including a ten-strong female horn section, dressed in the most colorful collection of dresses, accompanied her.
Björk has stated that the songs on Volta were written with the purpose of being delivered live. Having had the pleasure of listening to Volta in its entirety a few days earlier, I noticed that many of the song arrangements hade been changed from the album version to accommodate the newly added horn section. For most parts, the changes were positive, and gave a more vibrant feel to the delivery.
Much like when I first listened to the album, I felt there are two songs that absolutely stand apart from this CD. The first one was her fifth song on the night, a heartwarming duo with Anthony Hegarty (Anthony and the Johnsons), Dull Flame of Desire, that will surely be the radio hit of the album. Anthony was obviously feeling a bit awkward on stage, a full foot taller and far from being dexterous enough to keep up with Björk. It was still an early highlight of the show, despite their lack of cohesion, probably resulting from Anthony’s lack of rehearsing time (he badly miscued at least twice). Sadly, he is not likely to be a permanent member of the entourage.
The second one was her encore, a song she dedicated to Greenland and the Faeroe Islands called Declare Independence (don’t let them do that to you). It is a frantic screamo-electronica with a lot of fire. It will be interesting to see how that goes down at Roskilde, as Denmark is the ruling nation in both Greenland and the Faeroe Islands.
In other news, it became a show to witness towards the end when Björk performed some of her earlier hits, including Army of Me, Bachelorette (with a nice polka section), and a thundering version of Hyperballad, duly assisted by Mark Bell from LFO who has been a permanent fixture in Björk’s camp.