Björk at Ottawa Bluesfest 2013 – a review

“Review” is perhaps not the right word for this.  My thoughts on the show are wholly unencumbered by any illusion that I understood what I saw or heard, so it’s hard to know exactly what to say.

As limited as this word is, the show was awesome.  Throughout, I kept thinking that this was what magic must look like.  I knew something amazing was happening, but I understood not a bit of it.  It was just amazing to watch.  My first intimation that this was going to be Something Completely Different was when a giant Faraday cage descended from above.  The  two van de Graff generators it contained arced across the gap between them during some of her songs.

Her backup singers were a choir of teenage girls from Iceland.  In addition, there was someone working the synthesizer/iPod/computery thingies and someone else on percussion.  That was it.  Björk in a blue dress, all of five feet at most in her heeled ankle boots and wild red hair wider than she was; some cute kids dressed like extras from an episode of Star Trek TOS; a guy at a desk; a guy on the drums; and a gigantic arcing electrical apparatus dangling from the ceiling that would have impressed Tesla himself.  Prior to her set, I’d noticed a few pipe organs on stage and had assumed they would be part of her show, but they were not.  Possibly they were part of a prior act’s set?  But none of the prior acts seemed very pipe organy.  Possibly Björk just likes having pipe organs on stage?

I didn’t know any of the songs she played, but that really didn’t diminish my experience.  Possibly it made it richer.  She played for a little over an hour, then gigantic jets of fire erupted from the stage, she played one song for an encore (“Raise Your Flag?”), and the night was over.  I was transported from whatever inter dimensional portal Björk had taken us through back to a field in the middle of Ottawa surrounded by happy Canadians.

In the distant future (when misogyny is just a myth we tell each other but which no one quite believes), archaeologists who discover footage of Björk will, I hope, look on us more favourably.  After seeing her perform, I am convinced that she is evidence of higher mental processes at work.

Maybe the best thing about this amazing, amazing show is that the next time someone wants to tell me about how great the National’s new album is, or Vampire Weekend’s, or the Decemberists, or whoever, I now have a perfect response.  Do they use a Faraday cage?  No?  Well, where’s the Faraday cage if they’re so great?

This should stop any conversation in its tracks.

Prior to the show, an image displayed on the screen asked in English (then French) not to take pictures as Björk finds it distracting.  I did take this one, surreptitiously, and although it is not the best photograph I’ve ever taken, I think it captures the quantum fuzziness of the evening perfectly.

image

This review is dedicated to my dear, dear friend T, who desperately wanted to be at the show but couldn’t.  I was texting with her to tell her what was going on for the first few songs, but after the Faraday cage I stopped.  It just seemed cruel.  T, if it is any consolation, I kept wishing throughout the show that you could have been there too!

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