A lot has already been written about Björk’s new Biophilia project, because it’s been about a fortnight since it was launched at the start of the Manchester International Festival. So I won’t go into masses of detail about what happened, everyone knows about the ginger wig, the choir and the Frankenstein’s laboratory feel of a stage full of crazy new kinds of musical instruments. In fact, I might even try not to mention the ginger wig again at all…
Campfield Market Hall was a slightly off-the-wall venue for something as major as an internationally-renowned pop genius launching her new album, and it was a rather hot and stuffy atmosphere inside last night. However, as part of the Museum Of Science And Industry, it fits the theme of the show perfectly, particularly during opener Thunderbolt, where lightning is used as a musical instrument. It’s alive, indeed.
With David Attenborough providing narration to the ecologically-themed new tracks, along with video clips and animations (including a disturbing one featuring a dead seal, during Hidden Place), it’s a show that never really flags, even during the more experimental of Biophilia’s material. Live shows aren’t necessarily the best way to be introduced to new songs, and most of them won’t be easy to fully appreciate until the album (or the apps, in this case) is released, but there was no sign of fidgeting from the crowd.
The choir certainly added a lot to the music, both on the new songs and the old favourites, like Isobel and Jóga, and their presence on stage was cleverly used to keep it all constantly changing to suit the ‘in the round’ nature of the audience. Björk’s interaction was mostly kept to ‘thank you’s in between tracks, but she’s an engaging enough performer without chitchat. During a thrilling version of Where Is The Line, she was both lost in her own percussive world and at one with her crowd and her choir.
One of the goals of the Festival is to bring shows to the city that the world will sit up and pay attention to. Biophilia is one of those shows and rightly so.