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Live Review: Bjork Premieres New Material In NYC
Published May 4, 2007

By Phil Freeman

Björk commenced a string of three concerts in venues around New York on May 2, with a performance at Radio City Music Hall.

Björk commenced a string of three concerts in venues around New York on May 2, with a performance at Radio City Music Hall. (This was to be followed by a show on 5/5 at the Apollo Theater, and one on 5/8 at the United Palace Theater.) It was a short, dramatic set, featuring numerous songs from her latest album, Volta, due out May 7. The opening act was African group Konono No. 1, who took the stage one member at a time – percussionists first, then three men playing their trademarked electrified mbiras, and finally the female dancer-singer who anchors their performances. The group chanted and rattled its way through three songs in 45 minutes, all of which sounded pretty much the same, but much better than their maddening turn at Central Park Summerstage in 2006.

Konono left the stage, taking their junkyard gear with them, but they returned for the first song of Björk’s set, “Earth Intruders,” the studio version of which also features them. The song was accentuated by jets of flame at beginning and end, a slightly distressing sight in a venue as storied as Radio City. The rest of the set offered five more of Volta’s ten tracks, and more special guests. Min Xiao-Fen played pipa on “I See Who You Are,” and androgynous indie-rock vocalist duetted with Björk on “The Dull Flame Of Desire” – both reprising their studio roles. The core backing band was interesting all on its own, featuring Dan the Automator on laptop and occasional harpsichord, avant-garde drummer Chris Corsano, and a 10-member, all-female chorus that doubled as a brass section to lovely effect on songs like “All Is Full Of Love” and “Pagan Poetry.” The set was only 80 minutes long, including a two-song encore, but the packed house seemed more than satisfied. Presumably those in the back weren’t punished as harshly by the concussive levels of bass as listeners closer to the stage.

Set list:
Earth Intruders
Venus as a Boy
Aurora
I See Who You Are
Oceania
Dull Flame of Desire
All is Full of Love
The Pleasure is All Mine
Pagan Poetry
Jóga
Where Is The Line
Army of Me
Innocence
Wanderlust
Pluto

Encores:
The Anchor Song
Declare Independence