Bjork at Manchester International Festival

To Manchester for a weekend at the Manchester International Festival . We’re joined on the train by the ever enterprising Will Dutta (whose final year under graduate project finds its way into the Proms this year). Mind don’t mention i phones and train tickets to Will right now.

After checking into @macmanchester (apparently an old BT building with rather calming curves and a breathtaking view of….Manchester Picadilly station!) its onto the first gig of the weekend – Bjork.

With an extraordinary ginger wig which must be 20% of her body mass Bjork launches into her new album Biophilia. The work is the result of a ‘restless curiosity’ and an attempt to illustrate the place where art, nature and technology meet.

Performed in the round in the dramatic surroundings of the Campfield Market Hall Bjork is surrounded by a 24 piece female choir dressed in flowing golden and purple robes which would not have been out of place in a Lord of the Rings film. Their sound at times was heavenly. Somehow though the cult of Bjork has passed me by and I’m not really that aware of her back catalogue. I go in with open (curious) ears – not sure what to expect – and come out – well, perplexed.

Bjork may be the classical musicians pop songstress of choice but I’m clearly going to have to work harder to get it. Production wise too I find the evening strangely disappointing. Each song fades to black out giving the whole set a distinctly stilted feel (also not helped by the David Attenborough voice over introductions to some of the songs). The lighting is clunky and unsubtle. The unusual instruments in one corner seemingly under used. The onstage choreography (not helped by the curious decision to inflict cabled microphones on the choir) seems shaky and unrehearsed.

All of this I suspect would have paled into insignificance if I’d been swept away by the Bjork soundscape. I think its fair to say that pretty much everyone else was (I lost count of the number of times ‘Bjork I love you’ was called out) but I was well and truly flumuxed.

‘The best way to start a new’ Bjork sings in one of her songs ‘is to fail miserably’. Well I think its safe to say I failed failed miserably to get it – better find some Bjork back catalogue to catch up!

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