Björk brings wild, wood-sprite-y Cornucopia to sold-out show in New York
However you would expect Björk to arrive at her multi-night New York concert event Cornucopia (dragon? Pegasus? Uber X?) it felt exactly right that she emerged onstage from what looked like an actual portal — swirly helixes of color that enveloped Manhattan’s much-discussed new art space The Shed in a sort of oscillating three-dimensional rainbow.
Nearly every moment of the show — part of a sold-out run set to conclude June 1 — feels like the meticulous product of her own supremely Björkian making, from the heralding trumpets and imported Icelandic choir that open the evening to the gleaming Barbarella tea-cup platforms and the mind-bending visuals, projected throughout like screensavers from a civilization much more advanced than ours.
Clad in an elaborate gold headpiece and a white satin dress with elbow-length gloves and shoulder pieces that resembled giant pearlescent napkin rings, the singer hewed largely to a setlist comprised of her most recent album, 2017’s Utopia: “The Gate,” “Courtship,” “Body Memory,” “Features Creatures.” (She also brought out avant-R&B singer serpentwithfeet for the evening’s lone duet, “Blissing Me.”)
Those who came to hear the hits, as it were, would mostly have to settle for smaller moments and callbacks to her vast catalog — experimental, elaborately textured takes on “Venus as a Boy,” “Pagan Poetry,” and “Isobel.”
For any lack of a “Hyperballad” or “It’s Oh So Quiet,” though, there were other consolations: the seven-member flute collective that twirled around her for most of the evening like a roving tribe of pastel wood sprites; the gleaming igloo pod that served as a sort of onstage clubhouse; the man playing percussion with a series of ladles and handmade drums set inside a plexiglass water tank; a galvanizing prerecorded speech by Swedish teenager-turned-climate change hero Greta Thunberg.
The real gift of Cornucopia, though, is the singular, otherworldly wonder of Björk’s voice, still undiminished at 53. Over the years, her work has become more and more incantatory — phrases repeated over crescendoed instruments and twittering, glimmering soundscapes till they become less like songs than spell-casting.
In a sort of tone poem-manifesto that unfurled late in the show like a Star Wars scroll across the stage’s fringed scrim, she called again in strong words for personal and environmental responsibility. The phrase that ended it, “Imagine a future. Be in it,” felt especially fitting, too; the heartfelt mandate of an artist and iconoclast merely asking us to catch up to where she’s always been.
“Ísland, farsælda frón” / “Vísur vatnsenda-rósu” / “Sonnets/Unrealities XI” / “Cosmogony” / “Maríukvæði” (sung by Hamrahlid Choir)
“Arisen My Senses”
“Show Me Forgiveness”
“Venus as a Boy”
“Blissing Me” (with serpentwithfeet)