Icelandic icon and electronica queen, Bjork, played the last of three shows in Richmond last night, ending in climatic fashion.
Bewildered fans poured out of the Craneway Pavillion, a large brick building the size of a football field bestrewn with glass windows, gathering their thoughts among Richmond’s harbor. Loud boat horns bellowed as a final gesture to lure their passengers. Groups of people solemnly loaded the Ferry as car engines started, slowly forming a line through the only exit of the modest parking lot. The show was over, but the romanticism lingered in the stars that glowed among a dark, starry night.
Just two hours prior these people crowded around a circular stage, bedazzled by a performer who seldom performs in this country. Television screens flashing Bjork propaganda were arbitrarily placed throughout the venue, with videos of the singer contorting her body to intricate and complicated beats in extravagant costume. The mystique of this elusive artist was much to bear as people stammered by the walkway to encompass the stage, the anticipation amplified as the clock ticked closer to the scheduled start.
A large black curtain opened for a parade of performers. Three men lead the way for at least 10 other women all dressed in sparkling outfits. They took the stage to their respective positions: The three men to their DJ stations, one woman to her harp and the sparkling choir to center stage. Large television screens hovered above them as they sang in unison. A curiosity lingered through crowd, faced with the question- where was Bjork?
As a large, black cage slowly descended to the middle stage, Bjork stealthily made her way down the walkway. A vibrant wig with fluorescent colors of the rainbow bobbled up and down to the singer’s footsteps, abridged in height but riddled with unlimited competency. Her oddly shaped dress shimmered in the eyes of jeering fans as she stood on the stage resembling a cloud. A recording of a man with a calming voice started to play, explaining the meaning of all this. This was Biophilia, defined as a “love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms.” Lighting scorched on television screens as Bjork plummeted into “Thunderbolt” with large crackles of electricity lighting up the dark cage behind her. Her choir following suit after she sang, “May I, can I or have I too often? Craving Miracles.”
Bjork was pitch perfect, following the theme of Biophilia, her most recent album released in 2011, with images projecting on television screens above them. The song, “Moon,” started with the harp player plucking a beautiful melody without missing a beat, the cycle of the moon flashing above them. An electric xylophone started the song “Crystaline,” one of the highlights of the set, sending spectators through a visual maze. Halfway through the song the xylophone player hopped on his electric drum set into a fury of dark, speedy break beats, all played by a pair of arms. Bjork manipulated her body in a tribal dance to the rhythms.
The bashful singer didn’t speak often, but excitedly acknowledged the crowd: “Hello, city by the bay!” She yelped as she plunged forth through “Mutual Core.” Other noteworthy songs were “Hollow,” backed by Bjork’s impeccable Icelandic choir and visual manifestations of DNA, “Dark Matter,” promoting videos of fertilization and the eerie lullaby “Virus.”
Bjork’s set didn’t just consist of songs from Biophilia. She intertwined some treats for her longtime fans, playing “A Hidden Place” from Vespertine, the erotic R&B flavored “Possibly Maybe” from Post, and a duet with bay area favorite, Mike Patton.
“I’d like to welcome a special guest,” Bjork admitted, “This is the first time we’ve ever done this!” Patton backed up Bjork with gritty vocals as they sang, “Where is the line with you?” from the album Medúlla and battled the drummer with his caustic beat-boxing and erratic vocalizations.
The last tune of the night was the tenacious electronic anthem, “Declare Independence” from the 2007 album, Volta. The dancers maniacally and passionately danced as Bjork screamed, “Raise your Flag. Declare Independence. Don’t let them do that to you.” It was her last call, her last message in a set full of hidden memorandums. Lighting once again flickered in the black cage as Bjork created a storm of emotion and when the storm abruptly ended, people reacted as they should have—they didn’t know what hit them. They were in a state of paralysis and shock, feeling rooted by such an intimate and rare performance on the Harbor of Richmond, so much that they didn’t want to leave.