July 20, 2013

Pitchfork Fest in Review: Bjork


Photo Credit: Leif Johnson

On Friday, Bjork conjured the storm. Before her headlining set was cut short due to approaching weather (the crowd groaned, but 10 minutes later everyone was drenched), she put on a career-spanning show, the indisputable highlight of a day that had already seen some pretty amazing action. Dressed like some strange lightning rod and with her amazing Tesla coil synth on hand, the Icelandic singer and her choir of backup singers/dancers made their way through a set that included tunes from 1997's Homogenic ("Joga," "Hunter") and last year's Biophilia.

The sound was at once monstrous and self-contained. "Pagan Poetry" and "Hidden Place," from the intensely personal Vespertine, were more expansive live than their recorded counterparts—although the coda of the former song was a particularly breathtaking moment of intimacy. "Army of Me" segued into the beautiful "Mutual Core" to (prematurely) end the show, and even though it was clearly building to some magical climax, in hindsight that was a pretty stunning way to go out. The only real shame is knowing now that "Hyperballad" was to be up next.

Is there any contemporary musician more adept at blending the inner and outer worlds? Though Bjork's Pitchfork set was light on stage banter (the "thank you"s between songs serving as notes of appreciation and also polite deflections of the crowd's come-ons) hers is an engaging presence. Her music, likewise, is instantly understandable—pleasure-center stuff, despite its phrenic themes. Her set Friday, a perfect meeting of pop and avant-garde, was further proof of her unique power. It was a soundtrack to the squall that would shortly hit Chicago and the one that churns beneath the skin.