An opulent, self aware, stunning two hour performance: Icelandic icon Björk was able to “weave a matriarchal dome” over the heads of her transfixed crowd during her Cornucopia live show at London’s O2 Arena. The music pioneer brought her Utopian vision to life through pitch perfect vocals, beautifully orchestrated collaborative sounds, and breath-taking visuals.
Before the show began, a polite audio recording requested that fans refrain from filming or photographing the show, as this would be distracting to Björk. Surprisingly, the majority of fans respected her wishes, and immersed themselves in listening to the aural grandeur of the Icelandic choir who opened the Cornucopia show against a curtain backdrop laced with tropical flowers.
When Björk’s altruistic vocals broke through the airwaves and the stage curtain parted; it felt like straying into a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dressed in a unique ensemble and accompanied by performers who were both decorated like, and sounded like birds of paradise; Björk delivered a passionate rendition of ‘The Gate’. A flute ensemble led her in to ‘Utopia’, followed by the divine sounds of ‘Arisen My Senses’ with live harp accompaniment and more stunning visuals.
With a clear focus on her two most recent studio albums – 2017’s Utopia, and 2019’s Virtual Reality record Vulnicura – Björk’s set list, shape-shifting animations and optics truly transcended the fourth wall between fans and performer. The set’s sensuality was heightened by so many elements – the incredible stage design, the affluent costumes – as well as Björk’s willingness to experiment with new forms of sound during live shows. At one point in the set, she sings next to a percussionist who is pouring water over pebbles, with the crowd so entranced that it almost feels like every water drop is audible.
With only a handful of older songs making the cut for this performance (most notably ‘Venus As A Boy’ and a partial rendition of ‘Pagan Poetry’), whether this was your first time seeing Björk, or your fiftieth time; Cornucopia is an audio & visual force unlike any other. Björk’s artistic vision is uncompromising in so many ways, which is made especially clear towards the latter part of the show.
Her elaborate spectacle is underscored by a sincere desire to highlight the current climate crisis we are all witnessing. A series of words were projected on to the veil-like stage curtain, urging all to imagine a brighter future under that “matriarchal dome”, with the final statement – “Imagine a future. Be in it” – prompting applause from the crowd. There was a video message from climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg during the finale too, further encouraging fans to practice what Thunberg passionately, and necessarily preaches.
A performance that – despite this review – transcends the barriers of language; Björk’s Cornucopia show deserves to be seen in all its live glory. Its potent message about protecting the earth, and each other, still rings true long after the spotlight fades out. Björk’s vision serves as a reminder to all that altruism and ingenuity mean nothing if there’s not a planet for us all to share, and experience them on.