At Deer Lake Park on Wednesday, May 23
Commanding a crowd at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby is tricky, even for the biggest of the big-stage acts. With its myriad diversions–the sweeping lake vista; the sprawling maze of overpriced donair, hot-dog, and pizza vendors; and the cattle-corral beer garden–capturing and retaining the attention of an audience at this open-air venue requires expertly timed audio and visual interruptions. Björk sprinkled her Deer Lake show with just enough sparkly bits and recognizable hits to mesmerize the masses from start to finish.
Dressed in what looked like a strapped-on shower curtain with tub toys taped to her legs, Iceland's oddest expat had the sea of 30-somethings, who hung up their phat pants a decade ago, busting out their best rusty rave moves while skillfully balancing their beers and babies. Between the bald spots and nursing bras, the requisite all-ages-show newbies were dazzled by each other's mall-chic uniforms, Hula-Hoops, and conspicuous body piercings. With Björk providing the soundtrack to their grass-runway routines, these neophyte fans spent the evening strutting the grounds with wings fastened to their back, fresh tattoos, and overdone hairdos.
From the opening blast of fiery-red pyrotechnics to the last manic flashes of a green laser 18 songs later, teeny-tiny Björk jittered, jived, and jammed her way through a set that cherry-picked the best-known crowd-pleasers from her back catalogue–including "Hunter", "Hyperballad", "Bachelorette", and "Army of Me"–and introduced the four-four floor stompers from her latest release, Volta. Thankfully, tracks from Medúlla were mostly overlooked in the set list, but in an effort to avert an art-crowd uprising, a jazzed-up "Oceania" was thrown into the encore.
Björk's love-it-or-loathe-it voice is always remarkable live. Every growl, grunt, roll, and mispronounced word is mimicked precisely from her recordings, and although vocally she doesn't tend to stray far from the original, musically each song is remixed live with the addition of new instruments.
This time out, she was backed by a gaggle of Day-Glo Oompa-Loompas who were introduced as the Icelandic Brass Corporation. Their belching horns and tipsy trombones added a displaced Scandinavian-seaside sound to the otherwise all-electronic accompaniment courtesy of Mark Bell and the only Canadian on the tour, Damien Taylor. For these two, on-stage electronics were no longer limited to the standard synth-and-laptop combo.
Always open to experimenting with new electro gadgets, Björk puzzled the crowd with real-time plasma-TV images of disembodied hands using a cutting-edge electronic-music innovation known as reactable. Invented and designed by a weird-science collective in Spain, this touch-sensitive tabletop device allowed Bell and Taylor to create laptop and synth sounds by moving and rotating digital objects on a screen surface.
At the touch of a finger, fluorescent-green sonarlike rings blipped to the beat. The streaming television images on-stage were part Minority Report, part Atari, and left the electronic-music buffs and Björk nuts wide-eyed and wondering how it all worked, and who they could scam a ride from to get to the Gorge in Washington for Björk's show that was scheduled for Saturday night.