On Monday, March 5, Björk Guðmundsdóttir concludes a monthlong New York City residency that began with five shows at the New York Hall of Science, along with an educational program for children, followed by five more at the Roseland Ballroom. Melding together music, nature, and technology, Björk’s latest project, Biophilia, is a fascinating journey into art and science, a thrilling multimedia trip that travels from deep inside the human body into the vast cosmos and beyond. “The reason why Biophilia is on such a grand scale is that I can’t even attempt to explain sound and the world of rhythm and scales without looking into the solar system and atoms,” the forty-six-year-old former leader of the Icelandic band the Sugarcubes explains in the concert program. “For me that’s sort of the same world.” “Biophilia Live” is a captivating ninety-minute production that features all of the new album in addition to some older Björk favorites. Each of the Biophilia songs is introduced by the recorded voice of Sir David Attenborough and accompanied by animated videos projected from the innovative app onto eight two-sided screens hanging in a circle above the performers: Björk, percussionist Manu Delago, electronics master Matt Robertson, harpist Zeena Parkins, and the twenty-woman Icelandic chorus Graduale Nobili.
At Roseland, the stage has been moved to the center of the dance floor, and fans either sit or stand on all four sides, making for an involving and intimate experience. “My romantic genes is dominant / And it hungers for union / Universal intimacy / All embracing,” Björk sings on “Thunderbolt,” the opening track from Biophilia, and that’s exactly what she achieves in the show, an embracing intimacy that features a bevy of offbeat and unusual instruments, some adapted and/or invented specifically for Biophilia, from a gravity harp and a gameleste to a hang and a Tesla coil that turns electric bolts into sound. “To risk all is the end all and the beginning all,” she adds on “Moon,” as the show moves from the Big Bang far out into the future. Wearing a freaky reddish orange wig, elevator shoes, and a deep blue polyester sheath wildly padded at chest and hips, Björk uses all four sides of the stage, and the obvious fun she’s having spreads throughout the energized crowd. She playfully tosses in a few older songs, including Vespertine’s “Hidden Place” and its B-side, “Generous Palmstroke,” before going full-out for the encores, which on February 28 began with 1995’s dreamlike “Possibly Maybe,” then turned Roseland into a dance rave, closing the show with rollicking versions of 2008’s “Náttúra” and “Declare Independence” that had everyone up and grooving. If you can, grab the general admission side-stage seating and arrive early to get in the first row, which offers a spectacular view, the best seats we have ever had for a concert.