Sunday, March 8, 2015

Björk Live: Vulnicura (A Review)

So this weekend was the weekend I had been waiting nearly 2 months for: and it was worth the wait.

Billboard already wrote a smashing review of the March 7th show (the first to kick off her Vulnicura tour and her first time performing at Carnegie Hall). It really is on point about that special afternoon.

(All photos posted here from this concert was photographed by Kevin Mazur).

I have seen Björk live 7 times so far (twice for her Volta tour, that was at Radio City and Madison Square Garden, twice for Biophilia, both at the now defunct Roseland Ballroom, and for this tour, I saw the March 7th show, will see her on the 14th at Carnegie again, and lastly, at New York City Center). Each tour/concert of hers is so different and unique, where she takes us deeper into the themes of the newly released album. As Björk has been so candid about in recent interviews, Vulnicura is about her breakup with the father of her teenaged daughter, Matthew Barney. It's the most naked and personal album that she has ever done - and the concert mirrored that precisely.

Like the album, the story is about a woman facing heartbreak alone - angry, lost, confused, bewildered, and trapped in her fears, doubts, worries, and hope that there will be a way out of the pain. Though there was her string orchestra and Arca there on stage with her, it really were as if she were up on that stage by herself with the weight of her emotions on her shoulders as she woefully (and very nervously) sang the first six songs from the album:

History of Touches
Black Lake

These are pretty emotionally heavy songs, and being how usually private Björk is about her personal life, and knowing just what these songs are about (her ex), it made it even more overwhelming to hear these songs live. Seriously, I could tell from her singing and from her body language that Björk was extremely nervous, and there were times where it seemed as if her voice didn't have the strength to basically re-tell a dark period of her life, the 3 months before and the 3 months after the breakup. But...she did it! Björk let it all out, all that emotion, hurt, and pain, expressing it in not only her voice, but in her impromptu rhythmic dancing that was in harmony with the beats and strings.

While watching and listening, I was so moved, and teary-eyed, for her. The first 6 songs aren't your typical concert fare of songs - they are almost too private, and yes, very sad, and again, very naked and raw.

Long before this concert, I often wondered what other songs Björk would sing to fill in the gaps between the Vulnicura songs. How does one go from singing about heartbreak to...

To my surprise, Björk, "one. feeling. at a. time," gave us these songs:

Pleasure Is All Mine
Come To Me
I See Who You Are
Mouth Manta

Not that it is unusual for her to go back to older songs in the second half of a show, but what made this particularly special was how she carefully chose these songs. And it all makes sense to why.

Pleasure Is All Mine (from her Medulla album) was a proud declaration of her giving most, of surrendering herself---her emotions---to us, which is exactly what she has done by opening the old wounds of her heartbreak and sharing it with us. Come To Me (from Debut) is perfect, sounding like this was chosen as if she's telling herself to come, calm down, and heal, while also declaring that despite all, she'll always adore herself (and maybe still always adore Matthew Barney). I See Who You Are (from Volta) is about her children, telling them that one day they'll grow older, be wonderful people, and ultimately, they'll die, but for now, celebrate "all this flesh on our bones." All these songs were not only sung so beautifully, but as usual, the arrangements were exquisite, with the strings and beats breathing new life, and making them sound as if they were just born, so new.

The next two songs take us back to Vulnicura, with Quicksand being another song about her children (or in this case, her daughter), and Mouth Mantra takes us back to that dark period. But the beauty of this song---and the most triumphant and celebratory moment of this concert---was how triumphantly she belted:

"I am not hurt." 

Not only did she sang that like she truly meant it, but had a very warrior-like smile to go with it.

And that was when the audience gave her a standing ovation and wild applause that nearly made her giggle. That was a moment that I would never forget - it was the most perfect new beginning for her.

And for me - and perhaps for the rest of the audience? Truly inspiring. 

The songs that she sang for the encore were:

Harm of Will

These two were interesting choices as the finale - and again, it perfectly aligns with Vulnicura's theme of heartbreak and love. This time, it's no longer about heartbreak, but with Harm of Will (from Vespertine), it is only about love - how love conquers all. And Wanderlust (from Volta), like Vulnicura's closing song, Quicksand, has Björk not giving us a solution to how one recovers ultimately from a breakup, but simply a feeling of "To be continued..." That there's really no end, only a beginning, a craving, a need, and a desire to one day be cured, to start fresh, and to move on to whatever love---and life itself---has in store. To hear Vulnicura live is not only one emotional, breathtaking, beautiful, and intimate experience, but a triumph for one unique, talented woman.

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