Bjork @ Castlefield Bowl
Ex-Sugarcube, Bjork, came to the city as part of the Manchester International Festival and ManchesterRocks was there to witness the event
The support this evening was provided by Arca, really Alejandro Ghersi, a hip-hop producer and DJ. He had collaborated previously with Bjork hence his inclusion on this tour but the music couldn't be any further removed from Bjork’s, this performance being more of a multimedia presentation. The “music” was “created” from his and his accomplice’s laptops. Ghersi’s dress sense was interesting too, wearing a little black dress with suspenders and thigh high black plastic boots. The music was at best tedious and at worst dire. For a couple of "songs" he danced with his back to the audience trying poorly to mimic the on-screen dancer; when it came to singing it was beyond dire, screeching and wailing which was obviously influenced by Yoko Ono. The applause from the audience was almost non-existent, the biggest cheer coming when he said “this is the last song”. All the people around me that I spoke to afterwards could not believe how bad it was.
After a wait of what seemed like forever, especially after the turgid Arca, Bjork came on stage dressed in an outfit that looked like an insect but was a reflection of the underlying theme for the performance – creation, procreation and the cycle of life but put over in an artistic manner. The opening song, Stonemilker, saw Bjork singing whilst the 360 degree video of the song played behind her and it wouldn’t be unfair to say she seemed a little nervous and reticent at first. Accompanied by a small band and a 16 piece orchestra all dressed in white, Bjork moved through some of her classic material most of which was accompanied by videos. By the time it came to the highlights of her set, Quicksand and Wanderlust, Bjork was fully settled and seemed to be really enjoying the event, dancing and moving freely around the stage.
An extended version of Hyperballad was the sole encore and saw Bjork at possibly her loosest in the show. The use of the orchestra provided an interesting extension and new dimension to her arthouse electronica music, an event unlikely to be repeated in Manchester.
Words: Anthony Firmin