This week we were
. . . blown away by Björk in Manchester
As Björk appears on stage at Campfield Market Hall to perform her multimedia musical project, Biophilia,the crowd circling her in this atmospheric Victorian building crackles with appreciation.
Resplendent in a blue-sequined dress and a wig resembling a jagged red cloud, Björk Guðmundsdóttir might be channelling her inner Diana Ross, but then the comforting voice of David Attenborough rings through the speakers, setting the true tone for Björk’s creative thesis, “a unique synthesis of music, nature and science” that has been more than three years in the making.
Attenborough, prefacing each of the project’s songs, reminds us of the symbiosis between these three elements. The simple-sounding titles, such as Moonand Hollow,mask the original, heavyweight content within. Her opening song, Thunderbolt,is majestic. Framed by the sound of fizzing Tesla coils, she sings about cautiously “craving miracles”, which could describe the entire project. For Solstice,she stands between gravitational pendulum harps that produce an off-kilter chiming that elevates her voice to the instrument that it surely is. This idea is key to the entire project: everything is viewed as an instrument and as such is shaped in Biophilia’s image, whether it’s the “sharpsichord”, a pin barrel harp attached to two huge steel horns created by Henry Dagg; or the “gameleste”, a gamelan/celeste hybrid; the iPad that she plays on Dark Matter; or the other-worldly sounds of the Icelandic female choir Graduale Nobili that accompanies most songs.
Crystallineis probably the most accessible song, in terms of its tinkly melody and drum-and-bass breakdown, which musical director Matt Robertson ably executes from his table of technology. It unites the audience with some of the previous work she reappraises, such as Hidden Place, Its Not Up to Youand Isobel. Declare Independencethreatens to descend into a rave, with the choir leading the fray, and All Is Full of Loveis blissful. But it is One Day that causes a genuine hush; it is almost 20 years old but remains moving and potent, and when Björk sings of “the eruption that never lets you down” she could be singing about herself. Breathtaking. Siobhán Kane
. . . going to
The Vodafone Comedy Festival in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens, starting on Thursday. Go for the Tim Eric, stay for the Stephen K Amos. vodafonecomedy.com.
. . . on the rampage with The Vaselines
Eugene Kelly and Francis McKee have always been a wonderfully funny pairing: he is so taciturn; she is so chatty. At the Róisín Dubh, in Galway, McKee tells the audience this is their first time in the city, before angling for champagne and oysters, following on from her series of Irish firsts: first Guinness in Dublin, first Murphy’s in Cork (though she was apparently given Beamish). She promises a stellar performance, and the Glasgow pair don’t disappoint.
With a band that includes Bangor’s Bobby Kildea, a Belle Sebastian regular, The Vaselines sound as vital as they did when they released their first record, Dum Dum, in 1989. The night proceeds with a mixture of that record and last year’s Sex with an X,the title track of which is all fuzzing scuzzy guitars. Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeamis reminiscent of an old waltz, deepened through the duo’s musical shorthand, developed over 20 years. I Hate the 80’sis an amusing, wry pop song, something the band do so well.
They rampage through classics such as Molly’s Lips,which sets the crowd off, and Monsterpussy is pleasingly harmonious,with McKee’s sensual vocal softening Kellys edgier one. Kurt Cobain is now forever ingrained as part of their story, since he championed them, and he comes to mind when they tear into Ruined,one of their newer songs. The Devils Inside Meis equally squalling.
The Vaselines create heavy but lyrical pop music, which is set off through the differences in the band. McKee at one point has a vote on who believes in leprechauns, or fairies at the very least, suggesting that Kelly “doesn’t even believe in coincidence or fate”, but by the time they play their encore, finishing with the brilliant Dum Dum,something about their kinship seems more than just coincidence. Siobhán Kane
. . . looking forward to
Seeing the master kora player Solo Cissokho tonight in Dublin. The last time I saw a kora player it was in a camp four hours upriver by boat in Gambia; this concert could prove just as special. Cissokho is playing as part of a Whirligig session at the gorgeous Cobalt Cafe on North Great George’s Street. Also on the bill are Francesco Turrisi, Gerry O’Beirne and others, with the mouthwatering prospect of a jam session and intermission strawberries and cream. A contender for gig of the summer? Definitely. Laurence Mackin
. . . not buying
Rufus Wainright’s gazillion-CD box set House of Rufus. It’ll cost about €170 to grab the lot. That’s the equivalent of 20 Tinie Tempah CDs. Or two Springsteen box sets. Or half a city break.