Swan Song: Björk Performs to Elated Crowds in Taipei

This post is sponsored by Very Aspect 有象文化.

Guest post by Gamy Wong.

It was April when my jaw dropped after hearing the news of Björk coming to Taipei later in the year. Following the appearance of fellow Icelandic treasure Sigur Rós in Taiwan in late 2012, I joked to friends about how funny it would be if Björk were to do the same – little did I know that my wish would soon realize itself. The Twinkle Rock Festival announced Björk as the headliner for 2013, a refreshing departure from some of the slightly more mainstream artists that had performed in previous years.

2013 marks 20 years since the innovative Icelandic songbird released her debut record to international acclaim and quite appropriately, her first visit to Taipei. For the past couple of years, the singer has been busy preparing and touring for her most ambitious project yet, Biophilia. From creating instruments, to programming new application methods to record in, to making phone and tablet applications, Biophilia stands alone as an unprecedented musical experience. For months after I heard the lead single “Crystalline”, and this concept of the album, I wondered to myself, how this experience could even be replicated as a live show.

But of course Björk did not disappoint at her live show this past weekend at the Nangang Exhibition Centre. As I arrived at the venue, the enthusiasm for the show was evident, and many people were already queuing in a line that went around the building to go inside the arena hoping to get as close to the stage as possible, despite the 35ºC weather. At entry, you could not help but fix your eyes at the stage instruments including the familiar reacTable that debuted during the Volta tour, hangs, pipe organ, gameleste, and the gigantic Tesla coil.

As the lights turned down, Björk’s entourage of her 16 piece Icelandic female chorus, musical director Matt Robertson, and percussionist Manu Delago arrived onto the stage and started off with the celestial “Cosmogony”. After the introduction by the chorus, a rainbow-coloured cotton cloud made its way to the stage. A fanfare of appreciation filled the entire arena as the light revealed Björk in a bedazzled blue one-piece with a cape that flowed to her movement enchanting the Nankang audience in her presence.

On most dates of the Biophilia tour, songs from the most recent record were the focus, however, on the festival dates like Taiwan, more familiar songs were played. Complementing seamlessly with the Biophilia songs, classic hits like “Hidden Place” and “One Day” were re-arranged even though their original recordings still sound as good as new. After each song Björk would remember to say “謝謝” to thank the revered audience to even louder applause. She even apologized that she could not speak more Mandarin but the fanfare for the Icelandic swan from the hall spoke forgiveness and intense appreciation. On the cue of “Army of Me”, the entire show turned into a massive dancehall shifting the Taipei crowd into berserk mode along with the buzzing Tesla coil all the way to the end of the show.

Like most of the crowd, I am hoping this will not be the only time Björk graces Taiwan during her future live tours. Only a fraction of the singer’s immense discography was explored during this show. Most of the audience continued to clap for an encore even after the lights came back on after the liberating stomper “Declare Independence”. While Taiwan is a small island in the middle of East Asia, it bears much similarity to Iceland with its beautiful natural surroundings. Not many performers with Björk’s surreal aura exist in the world and even fewer perform in this part of the world. If you witnessed her performance in Taipei, you can call yourself one of the lucky few to have enjoyed music from the past, present and future all at once.

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