NOMADIC REVERY (ALL AROUND)
Friday afternoon, Rebecca and I boarded a train for Seattle. We had been looking forward to this weekend all summer. Bjork was playing on the pier in Seattle that night, and we were going to see Dave Gahan at the Paramount on Saturday. We’d also visit my friend Christopher, who lives up there.
The train is a really pleasant way to travel. It’s pretty smooth and effortless. They’ve even taken to showing movies onboard, and while Holes certainly isn’t a masterpiece, it was light enough to be a nice travel companion, and quirky enough to also stimulate the brain a little. I liked the structure of the past playing against the present, and while the seams were a little too cleanly sewn, there were some pretty clever ideas overall.
Seattle itself was sunny, but not nearly as hot as Portland has been the past couple of weeks. We walked from the station to the center of downtown to meet Christopher. He chose a Starbucks as our place to hook up, but of course, there were two Starbucks on the same block, so we had to cross our fingers we chose the right one (we did). We also grabbed a Seattle Weekly to see who was opening for Bjork, and to our surprise, it was Bonnie “Prince” Billy. This couldn’t have been more perfect. Will Oldham, the man who goes under the BPB name, is Rebecca’s favorite songwriter. His dark country is a bit of an acquired taste at times, but even I enjoy him under this moniker (particularly the I See A Darkness and Master & Everyone records). We had tried to see him a couple of days after Rebecca got back from China, when he was doing an in-store in Portland, only to be barred from the performance because it was too overcrowded. Actually, we weren’t barred—we decided we didn’t want to be crammed in there with a bunch of hipsters. We’re snotty that way.
Now, when I say the show was on the pier, I mean literally it was on the pier. Right next to the Aquarium, right on the edge of the water. So it was a gorgeous night, full of clouds and waves off in the distance, and the occasional mast of a boat passing by in the background. You would have hoped a tranquil environment like that would have put the mob in an equally tranquil mood, but the usual crowding in and lack of respect for personal space prevailed. I mean, really, what is the point? It’s not like everyone was pushed against the walls and crammed into every corner. Would it hurt us all to take a step away from one another?
Will Oldham wandered onstage around 7:30. It was just him and an autoharp and a wide-open microphone. He’s a thin man, barely there. The most substantial part of his person is the wide, blonde beard and wild hair. I am sure most of the people in the audience thought he was some homeless person that wandered in off the street. He opened with the lead track from Master & Everyone, “The Way.” While there is a gorgeous, gentle arrangement on the recorded version, this live rendition was sparse, yet still beautiful. Oldham’s voice has a tremble to it, and it brings a vulnerability to the melancholy love song. He followed with various tunes from throughout the various incarnations of his career, including the title track from Master & Everyone and rarity “Little Boy Blue.” He closed with the amazing “I See A Darkness,” one of my faves (and known by many as a Johnny Cash song, since the man in black covered it on American III.
Bjork came on about half an hour later. She had an eight-piece orchestra, a multi-instrumentalist (harp, harpsichord, accordion, chimes), and the Matmos duo on the electronic squelches and squirts. The sun was almost completely set, the wind was blowing in off the water—it couldn’t have been more idyllic. Bjork emerged in a fluffy pink dress. She looked like some kind of pastry--one with too much frosting--including a tall eruption of black taffeta on her left shoulder that kept her from turning her head much until she ripped it off three songs into the set. Her hair was a little off, though. It looked as if she had time to get one side of it cut, but not the whole thing. It kept bugging me. (See image.)
The evening’s set pulled primarily from Homogenic and Vespertine, as well as a lot of songs I didn’t recognize (and so I presume are new). Many of the songs, like “Hunter” and recent single “It’s In Our Hands,” were remix versions, too, and barely recognizable. The oldest song she did was “The Modern Things” off Post.
My favorite number had to be “Joga,” though. Bjork didn’t do anything with the arrangement, she left it just the way it is—but her voice was so clear and powerful, amazing with the strings backing it up, it was a transcendent moment. Visual highlight of the night had to come later in the night, during a new song, when the backdrop featured what looked like fish in a fishtank, but that turned out to be swimming forearms, with the hands acting as tails. (According to a review in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, it was called "Desired Constellation.")
The show was amazing, but did end on a slightly sour note. Bjork left the stage, and after several minutes of the lights being out and the audience clapping and cheering—and the roadies seemingly rechecking all the equipment—the venue put the house lights up and cued the taped exit music. It appeared that an encore was planned, but scrapped at the last minute for some unknown reason. (Again, the Seattle paper reports the songs were to have been "Human Behavior," "You've Been Flirting Again," and "Isobel.") Any bruised feelings were slightly soothed, though, by an excellent, spicy lamb gyro at a place near the bus stop.
Saturday's report, including the Seattle Art Museum, later.