Food, wine, travel, music
You could hear an icicle melting in anticipation of Bjork coming on stage last Saturday. Headlining the five-day 17th Iceland Airwaves music festival, fans of all ages gathered in the luxurious Eldborg concert hall of Reykjavik’s landmark Harpa concert hall and conference centre.
A thirty-one string section of the Icelandic Philharmonic orchestra sat in an arc as the petite figure walked on stage, and with no introduction launched into songs from her latest album Vulnicura. Heart wrenching, intense, visceral, her phrasing and clearly articulated words (all in English) were classic Bjork. Her deeply personal History of Touches was heartbreaking. The beautifully arranged opulent strings smoothed the plaintiff sounds, leaving the audience stunned.
An intermission served to allow the fashionably underdressed audience to unwind and compare to other performances. “All of her concerts are completely different”, said one fan. “The last one was all electronics. This is more pared down and cannot be compared, except that it’s also amazing. Incredible!” Icelanders are proud of their international star. Other musicians and Bjork’s mother stood in the crowd. No-one takes selfies. It’s not cool.
A change of dress from short red with glistening ruff collar to long blue gown, a stiff veil covering her face, the second half started with the sparkly feel of Aurora from her 2001 Vespertine album followed by the syncopated I’ve Seen It All. At last Bjork spoke, in English, warmly introducing the orchestra.
A smooth version of Pluto, from her 1997 Homogenic album, was the encore of a more varied second half. Fans left sated. Exhausted.
PJ Harvey and Dizzee Rascal were other desirable international tickets of the festival, with US bands appearing in ticketed and many free venues. Clothes shops, bars, cafés, hotels, galleries and museums hosted UK and Icelandic artists such as the 16 women strong ‘femcees’ rap collective Reykjavikurdaetur (Daughters of Reykjavik) contrasting with Tonik Ensemble’s techno sounds and the more melodic rock band Mammut. John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) opened the Reykjavik Punk Museum in a converted lavatory block, but many of the most interesting at this relaxed festival were creative Icelanders. Plan now for next year.
This article appeared in November 2016 in the Irish Examiner. Pics Roz