Björk does not mingle. She is not one of us. Unmarked white vans deliver Björk to Union Park minutes before her set. Security opens the fences and holds back the VIP onlookers. The vans park next to the ramp leading up to the stage and are sealed again by the tarp lined fences. People yank down the top of the tarps for a window large enough to aim their iPhones. Some climb to look over for a peek of Björk. This is not Animal Collective. This is a honest-to-god celebrity headlining the Pitchfork Festival.
"Björk won't talk for hours before her sets to preserve her voice," a Pitchfork staffer says waiting for the white van to hatch Björk. "Maybe she just doesn't want to talk to anybody," says another.
Björk's head is encased in what looks like a koosh ball made of fiber optic cables. It covers her face. From far away, she looks like a Japanese toy, an alien. It does not affect her incredible voice, nor does age. You can also hear her voice clear and booming in the far reached of the field. Up close, it give you chills. That voice is a force of nature. Björk wears a short silver dress that recalls Frank Gehry and seashells. She performs the entire set in this sea urchin mask. The temperature is over 90 degrees.
The backing band is your standard drummer, choir, Macintosh and giant Tesla coil setup. You know, that old combo. The Tesla coil is a hexagonal tube cage that hangs in the rafters above Björk's head. It is first used in "Thunderbolt," as it was originally on her most recent album Biophilia, but adds crackling bass to a storming "Army of Me." Electric bolts tickle each other like snake tongues inside the cade. Near the stage you can practically feel it in your teeth. It's fucking awesome. The all-female choir is even cooler. In "Mutual Core," the choir huddles and squats in a ring. In the build-up to the chorus, the sing a crescendo and slowly rise. As the song climaxes in a frenzy of drum breaks and buzzing electronics (and raw lightning electricity), the choir lets loose in a ritual dance, shaking their arms like mescaline shamans.
Between every other song, Björk just says, "Thank you." In her accent it sounds like a cute sneeze.
Björk draws half her set from Biophilia (the chiming "Moon," opening with "Cosmogeny," the drum & bass music box of "Crystalline"), mixing in similarly cosmic cuts from Homogenic (the still incredible "Hunter" and "Joga") and Vespertine("Heirloom," "Hidden Place"). "One Day," from Debut, which just turned 20, is played with just percussion and Björk. Really, that is enough. You could lose the percussion and we'd still be mesmerized.
An hour into her performance, Björk says more than two words. "I am told we have to stop because of weather…I tell you what, this wouldn't be much in Iceland."
Björk performed in sweltering heat with microtentacles covering her head and a dress made of sheer metal. A large metal device of significant weight, filled with untamed flickers of lighting, hovers above her body. Her video screens crashed to black a couple times, and the stage lights kept browning out, as the festival's fuses were perhaps unable to handle the Tesla coil surges. Nothing phased her. She's basically like, "What, I can do this all fucking night." Björk is not from outer space, or some crack in a volcano. She is just one bad ass woman.
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