Björk’s SF concert mixes politics and emotions

What is going on in Björk’s brain is one of the great mysteries of our time. Is his interior monologue accompanied by floating flutes? When she closes her eyes, does she see watercolors or 3D graphics? Does she think about trees almost all the time? Or maybe her fierce but fragile inner voice is comfortably surrounded by fluffy white clouds.

At the Chase Center on Saturday night, the Icelandic artist gave the audience a view inside. The Cornucopia tour, based on his album “Utopia”, arrived in San Francisco after three performances in Los Angeles. There’s a second show in SF on February 8 (tickets are still available), which will be the conclusion of the short five-date series. An SF crowd dressed for the occasion, with outfits ranging from bright pink monochrome bodysuits to ‘Black Swan’ ballerina outfits, alongside many buttoned up boyfriends in dark sports jackets.

Björk performs onstage during her ‘Cornucopia’ Tour at Chase Center on February 05, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for ABA

The show began with an a capella intro by a Los Angeles choir called Tonality. Draped in white, they set an ethereal base for the ensemble, complemented by the Viibra flute septet adding a layer of fantasy. A percussionist with minimal kit and an arsenal of digital drums flanked one side of the stage, in front of a synthesizer control center with custom instruments like those used in it biophilia tower. A harpist completed the ensemble with a cascade of delicate notes. Brooklyn experimental musician Serpentwithfeet made a brief appearance for a duet.

Bjork's Utopian Flute Septet 'Viibra' performs with Björk on stage during the 'Cornucopia' Tour at Chase Center on February 05, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

Bjork’s Utopian Flute Septet ‘Viibra’ performs with Björk on stage during the ‘Cornucopia’ Tour at Chase Center on February 05, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for ABA

Björk, now 56 but still looking eternally young, floated around a tiered stage that looked something like the mossy top of a scenic plateau. She wore an oversized dress that looked like it was covered in sparkling loofah (but make it fashionable), and an elaborate mask that obscured her face. Animated graphic projections complemented the stage show, with the visuals oscillating between abstract waving DNA strands and blooming pastel flower petals. One of the few downsides to the elaborate production was that the only video close-ups of Björk projected onto the screens were digitally enveloped in color washes. If you wanted to watch the legend but weren’t seated close, well, you were out of luck, but flashy visuals and lively choreography made for an enjoyable experience no matter where you were seated. (tickets start at $49.50)

Björk performs on stage during her tour

Björk performs onstage during her ‘Cornucopia’ Tour at Chase Center on February 05, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for ABA

The set list was heavy with “Utopia” songs, so fans who ignored her 2017 collaboration with Venezuelan experimental musician Arca might not have been familiar with much of the material (if you go to the show on 8 February, it would be worth revisiting). Older hits were revamped, suitable for the flute and choir ensemble, including “Venus as a Boy”, “Pagan Poetry” and “Hidden Place”. The latter proved to be the highlight of the show, as the choir enveloped Björk, encircling her as she viscerally struggled on the floor with an emotional tenor unmatched by any other performer of her generation.

There were no onstage banter except for a few charming examples of Björk expressing her gratitude, “thank you for tonight” and simply saying “San Francisco” a few times, to thunderous applause. After about an hour of set, she left the stage and the music stopped, replaced by a gigantic projection of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg giving a long speech on environmental responsibility that was inspiring (and more than a bit ashamed). Then Björk returned to close with “Tabula Rasa,” drawing perhaps the biggest cheers of the night as she intoned the lyrics, “Let’s clean up, break the chain of father f—k-ups, it’s time, for us women to get up, not just go to bed.

Björk performs on stage during her tour

Björk performs onstage during her ‘Cornucopia’ Tour at Chase Center on February 05, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for ABA

By the time the lights came on, it was pretty clear to everyone what Björk was thinking lately. Abstract moving graphic projections reminded the crowd that their minds are still firmly rooted in the future, even if it is a nature-oriented future where forests battle against cities. There were moments of Matmos-style noise, but the electronic experimentation of his earlier work largely shifted to beds of quivering flutes and choir harmonies. These delicate soundscapes are what so many superfans love about Björk, the emotional tapestry she’s woven over her 30-year career. Beyond her music, she’s a long-time activist for environmental and political causes, and it’s clear from Thunberg’s inclusion that after decades of exploring her inner world, today’s Björk is just as anxious to look outward.




Björk performs on stage during her tour

Björk performs onstage during her ‘Cornucopia’ Tour at Chase Center on February 05, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for ABA

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