Bjork plays Hammersmith Apollo

Okay, anecdote from ten years ago, the last and only time prior I saw Bjork live, I didn’t actually see her.

We all bundled down to the club but the only thing is, it was rammed beyond belief. A hardy ever present at roughing his way through a crowd, even I couldn’t get within forty yards of the stage. I think I may have caught a glimpse of a hair toss at one point but even I gave up and retired to the bar where the other music fans were celebrating their luck at being there and bemoaning their misfortune at not being anywhere near it.

So, this time I was expecting an affair a little more sedate at one of the best London venues for seeing arena sized acts in a music-hall auditorium setting, The Hammersmith Apollo whose old school nonchalance and acoustics have lent themselves to more than the odd classic gig over time. So amidst a festival style, elaborate set, the scene this time was ideal for the imperious pop pixie to unleash a set of new material and the odd crowd pleaser, all reinterpreted through the broken beat, junglist electronic bents of production partner, LFO’s Mark Bell.

Far from a greatest hits show but no less strong for that, an innovative air of Las Vegas camp, vaudeville and progressive cabaret takes hold of the show, which toys with the likes of “Hyperballad” and “Human Behaviour” like many of the remixes which initially took them to the bosom of the dancefloor. Backed by an extensive, talented band which includes a 15 piece female brass section, free jazz drummer Chris Corsado, keyboardists and electronica stylings, it’s an opportunity to see the full on festival show in a more intimate and way more enjoyable setting.

Tis a massive, huge show as well. By the time the second tune of the night, “Hunter”, kicks in with more than a few shades of Mike Paradinas’ U-Ziq treatment, the production of Bjork’s lead vocal has already proved itself a sublime treat. Sporting a rather cute and fetching fluffy bobbled hat, what the lady may lack in height, she more than compensates as her energy, presence and all round exuberance owns the hall.

Taking drum and bass leanings and applying them throughout the set, Mark Bell’s input give the set shades of A Guy Called Gerald and one-time Bjork collaborators 808 State’s more progressive moments, a moody enigmatic elegance coupled to the crisp sharpness of pure beats working. Throwing upbeat, downbeat, jazz and latin elements into the rhythmic collective keeps the crowd attentive and expectant, especially when surprise guests Toumani Diabate and Antony Hegarty of Antony And The Johnsons turn up for show stopping turns. Not that this removes the limelight from our lead playerette whose effortless cool quickly establishes her as one of those great front women who seemingly doesn’t even have to try.

As the set becomes more dancey and production wise even more experimental, a green lazer reminiscent of the earliest incarnation of Renaissance in Mansfield begins to work the crowd who become a lot more lively when confronted with the barrage of breakbeats, Hawtin-esque techno acid lines and ambient drops. Amidst it all, Bjork’s vocal remains sterlingly timeless and some twenty years on since “Birthday” as young, fresh and challenging as ever.

Indulging throughout in some humorous banter and sweet repartee with the crowd throughout, as the set comes to a close with a bravura and bombast that builds on the dramatic poise that’s been exhibited throughout. As “Army Of Me” and “Human Behaviour” serve as the prelude to the encores, my guest professes that the show’s “out of this world” and perhaps it’s destined to be a particular live highlights of this summer’s season.

Well produced, brilliant executed and a whole barrel of challenging laughs, Bjork’s consummate professionalism is matched throughout to a mischievously attractive wit which holds a crowd enraptured. As a similarly petite aunt of mine used to put it, “Diamonds Don’t Come Like Bricks” and the sparky, sultry, alluring analogy holds true across both her performance and career.

Well fun, proper class, and an all round top girl to boot, at least I got to see her properly this time round….

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