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Björk - MTV Unplugged - MTV Live CD (album) cover



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3 stars Another morsel from a diverse set of live performances

Unlike far too many progressive music artists, Bjork has been on the ball enough to leave her fans a wide range of quality video documents of her live performances. Not only is this fun for us but a wise move for her legacy. Her exceptional Live DVD Series features some stunning performances and this one is pretty cool as well. It focuses on MTV and features two different live performances broadcast on the music channel.

MTV Unplugged 1994: This show is a tad more interesting than the usual "Unplugged" fare which I often did not enjoy, preferring my rock and roll in its full-calorie mode. But as usual Bjork manages to pull these things off. You could lock her in a room with an empty Milk Duds box and she would find a way to make compelling music. Clad in an almost florescent yellowish dress she had a small army of musicians with her, performing the material of her album "Debut." These people were good. Without the large electronica sound she turns to a more subtle backing band but they really deliver for her. Many hand percussionists on exotic instruments, including lead glass rims! There is a brass section, flute, harp, strings, jamming acoustic bass, and some low key but effective keyboards. Her vocal performance is top notch as usual. I think the more toned down approach was refreshing in that it allowed her to present a more intimate singing, relying less on some of her trademark tics and yelps. The closer "Violently Happy" was thrilling with furious jamming by the bassist and drummer. This show will be a must for fans of her debut solo album as it features some truly passionate performances of much of the album.

MTV Live 1998: This is a short 6-song performance from 1998 where Bjork is promoting "Homogenic" and it complements well the first show, the two offering Bjork in unique settings but in different times and with different backing. This show features the Icelandic string octet and Mark Bell. The strings offer a very organic and intense in-the-moment feel while the samples and beats form a suffocating cocoon of sound. Together it feels claustrophobic at times with Bjork's voice and the strings flailing to escape the confines of the electronics. Adding to the effect are the hallucinatory visual effects so that the viewer feels like they are tripping as they watch, especially on the disturbingly intense "Pluto" which feels like a rave in your living room. Ok, not quite, but it tries. "Bachelorette" is the other incredible highlight here, really emotional. There are sound problems with this one, and many complain about the seemingly hasty production and the fact that they didn't clean this up. But in reality the problems do not outweigh the performances which are formidable. While it doesn't match the scope and perfection of more carefully recorded productions like the Vespertine DVD, it is still well worth your time.

Bjork has a wealth of solid live performance choices for fans to enjoy and this one should be in your collection eventually, though maybe not first. She has other more realized releases with full concerts in higher quality sound. This is more of a sinful little dessert. Though if you want to sample two shorter and exotic performances then by all means have your dessert first.

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Posted Saturday, September 3, 2011 | Review Permalink

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