September 2007

at the Virgin Festival
September 8, 2007 Toronto Island Toronto
Björk on The Island
by Ori Dagan
Arguably Iceland's most famous citizen and certainly one of the world's most universally respected musicians, Björk is currently touring the globe for the first time in four years. As part of this massive eighteen-month tour, she headlined the Virgin Festival, on Toronto Island, September 8th. The two-day festival (September 8 & 9) featured a thoroughly mixed bag of happening rock n' pop, including scream-worthy headliners The Smashing Pumpkins, the fantastic fusion of Britain's M.I.A. and Canada's own critically acclaimed rapper k-os.

When Björk made her initial splash into the mainstream with Debut and later Post, her chart-topping hits were characterized by infectious beats and a nineties' pop sensibility. 1998's Homogenic featured an arranged marriage of strings and electronica. Towards the turn of the century and leading up to 2004's Medulla an entirely vocal affair of choirs, beat boxing and throat singing — her music seemed increasingly focused on questioning boundaries and in the process became less commercially appealing. Enter 2007's Volta, Björk's first album to debut in the top ten on the Billboard 200 album chart. The new album also marks her first collaborations with famed R&B record producer Timbaland and includes two duets with Antony Hegarty, lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons. Heavy on brass and percussion and thematically focused on freedom and femininity, Volta somehow manages to be equal parts challenging and accessible, and thanks to Timbaland’s contributions should win Björk some brand new fans.

Featured as the final mainstage act on the first day of V-Fest, the quirky songstress was welcomed by a characteristically enthusiastic reception. On the 2001 Vespertine tour, Björk’s sold-out Toronto show at the Hummingbird Centre included a 56-piece orchestra, a choir from Greenland, electronic duo Matmos and electric harpist Zeena Parkins. This time around the quirky songstress was accompanied by a mere 13 musicians: drummer Chris Corsano, long-time collaborating musician Mark Bell, pianist Jónas Sen and a 10-piece all-female Icelandic brass section consisting of French horns, trumpets, trombones, and tubas, all of whom also delivered back-up vocals. Dressed in pale fluorescent pink, green and turquoise gowns, these young ladies had red flags extending from their heads.

A blatantly eccentric visual element always accompanies Björk’s music. She emerged on stage barefoot in a shiny gold frock with puffed up sleeves, a mint green headscarf and matching long fingernails. Even if one was hard of hearing, it would be impossible not to fall in love with her expressive performance style. Like a carefree child of six, the forty-one-year-old explosively hops and skips, sways and jumps while she sings. During various instrumental passages, her dancing seemed more choreographed and her priceless facial expression purely jovial.


Perhaps most importantly, the artist was in excellent voice at Virgin Fest. Favourites such as “Army of Me”, “Hyperballad” and “Pagan Poetry” drew the most enthusiastic hollers. The first encore, “Oceania” — introduced as “a song that I sang once at the Olympics” — drew cheers for its piercing, pitch-perfect climactic high note. Arguably utilizing the ‘save the best for last’ approach, the evening concluded with the meaningful, politically relevant “Declare Independence”. This hypnotic chant, which encourages the listener to “raise your flag… higher, higher!” builds from whispers to shrieks in a dramatic manner that one can only expect from one of the world’s most brave musical geniuses.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Ori Dagan
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2007