Bjork unveils Biophilia at Bestival

Bjork photographed in Manchester in June. Photo by Carsten Windhorst
Bjork photographed in Manchester in June. Photo by Carsten Windhorst

The view is glorious as we head to Victorious!

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Getting Bjork to play her sole outdoor festival as the main stage closer for this year’s Bestival must have seemed like quite a coup.

And, as a maverick singer with a history of unusual musical productions, she seems like the ideal fit for a festival that prides itself on its quirky nature.

But with a new project (nothing as simple as a straight forward album) to promote that very few have heard, the Icelandic singer doesn’t make it easy on her audience.

With the stage cloaked in darkness, a portentous voiceover sounding very much like Richard Attenborough, introduces us to the concept of Biophilia – a marriage of ‘nature, music and technology.’ It is apparently intended to be a huge multimedia project that will grow over the next three years.

When Bjork appears centre stage, she’s sporting a giant ginger afro, split by a blue hat that resembles some kind of insectoid fin. And it’s no normal band set-up for Biophilia either. There’s only a drummer and keyboardist, oh, and a 30-strong female choir.

The music takes Bjork’s familiar magpie approach, one new number moves from lullaby to explosive drum-and-bass, climaxing with the singer shooting fireworks from her hands.

Another number sees a giant chamber suspended over the choir, arcing bolts of lightning around inside it. The fizzing and cracking acts as the song’s percussion.

Video screens show clips of spiralling DNA, starfish and mushrooms.

Of the few familiar numbers she slots in, Hidden Place is a corker and Isobel benefits from the choir’s ethereal vocals.

At one point Bjork actually thanks the audience for our patience. Very sweet of her, but a festival headline slot isn’t usually the best time to test that patience, and the crowd is noticeably thinner than for the other two main stage headliners, Pendulum and The Cure.

There’s no doubt it all creates an arresting spectacle and it’s certainly ambitious, but I’m not sure that the end of a festival is the best place to unveil a complex and slightly dotty concept.

Bjork has some great songs in her catalogue already, it would have been nice to have heard more.

CHRIS BROOM