June 16, 2013


Bjork at Bonnaroo: An Interstellar Science Lesson Hits the Dancefloor

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Watching Bjork at Bonnaroo never quite gave you the feeling you were actually watching Bjork. Even when she's standing onstage before you—resplendent in her unearthly regalia and flanked by a chorus of flawless human specimens—it still feels as if you're watching some sort of holographic performance beamed down to earth from whatever distant nebula her comparatively-advanced civilization hails from.

And that's probably exactly what she wanted. Bjork's face never once appeared on the stage's LED screens, which was bad news for those watching from afar. Instead, CGI images of shifting tectonic plates, explosions within the earth's core and starfish holding "hands" (as it were) graced the screen while Bjork and her entourage pranced about the stage, alternating between synchronized routines and tribal dancing chaos.

Bjork wore a predictably bizarre outfit for her Saturday evening performance at the Tennessee fest (what, you thought she'd take the stage wearing a tank top and Daisy Dukes to blend in with the locals?) Her excessively 3D dress was the shade of silver worn only by women in 1950s sci-fi films, and her face was covered in translucent spikes that made her head resemble an interstellar Koosh ball.

The chorus of mostly-blonde women backing her onstage wore shimmering blue and gold robes, which had the effect of making them look like gospel singers at a born again Christian church. Except for the significant difference that these women danced with childlike joy instead of stilted awkwardness.

The church vibe very well might have been intentional. Bjork's set favored tracks from her latest album Biophilia, which features lyrics recounting the birth of the universe in addition to facts pertaining to how fast the Atlantic ridge drifts. And if Bjork was the preacher—waxing poetic to Bonnaroo about the secular wonders of the universe—then her chorus did their job well, perfectly amplifying her love of learning and science to the crowd of thousands before her.

As enjoyable as the intimate, baroque arrangements of Biophilia were at Bonnaroo, the effect of her show was diluted by the fact that she took the stage while the sun was still shining. It was only when dusk began to drop—which fittingly happened while she was singing about signals that "wake me up from my hibernating" during "Pagan Poetry"—that her show truly came alive and the audience began to throw down. The crowd lost it during the pounding, stuttering "Mutual Core" and her "Nattura" encore elicited a stomping tribal dance of thousands.

After that, Bjork projected an emphatic "ThANK you" into the night and disappeared backstage, presumably to commence preparations for her return trip to whatever planet she comes from.