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VESPERTINE LIVE AT ROYAL OPERA HOUSE

Björk

Crossover Prog


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Björk Vespertine Live at Royal Opera House album cover
4.67 | 17 ratings | 1 reviews | 75% 5 stars

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DVD/Video, released in 2002

Songs / Tracks Listing

First half:
1. Frosti
2. Overture
3. All is Full of Love
4. Aurora
5. Undo
6. Generous Palmstroke
7. An Echo, a Stain
8. Hidden Place
9. Cocoon
10. Unison

Second half:
1. Harm of Will
2. It's Not Up to You
3. Pagan Poetry
4. Possibly Maybe
5. Isobel
6. Hyperballad
7. Human Behaviour
8. Jóga
9. It's In Our Hands

Documentaries on the DVD:
1. Touring Vespertine: Programming, Playing, Singing


Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians


- Bjork / vocals, arrangments
- Zeena Parkins / harp, celeste, accordian
- Matmos / synths, beats, electronics, atmospheres
- Simon Lee and the Il Novecento Orchestra
- Inuit Choir of Greenland / vocals

Releases information

DVD: 2002 Wellhart/One Little Indian Ltd/BBC Bjork 511DVDN

Thanks to finnforest for the addition
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BJÖRK Vespertine Live at Royal Opera House ratings distribution


4.67
(17 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(75%)
75%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(12%)
12%
Good, but non-essential (6%)
6%
Collectors/fans only (0%)
0%
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)
6%

BJÖRK Vespertine Live at Royal Opera House reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The definitive Bjork release. Incredible.

Yes, this is peak Bjork right here and certainly an important piece of evidence in favor of her inclusion on the site. It is also one of the finest live recordings I own, made all the more pleasurable being in the visual format. Live from London's Royal Opera House in December of 2001, Bjork brings the snowy magic of Vespertine to life. Many of the important players from the studio album return to the live show, but here they have much more freedom to bring a creative and improvisational attitude to their performance. On a stage complete with crunchy snow underfoot and lovely lighting and visuals, five distinct sound elements mesh together to create an unforgettable evening. The five sound elements do not have to function under the standard rock format of guitar/bass/drum and thus there is much more opportunity here for unique sound and subtle sound.

First, with all respect to those frequently wowed in the forum by Joanna Newsom's harp playing, they may wish to seek out the incomparable Zeena Parkins. I've seen Ms. Parkins described as an "avant-garde harpist" but this doesn't give her enough credit. Something of an outsider to traditional stuffy harp culture and never tied to a piece of sheet music, Zeena brings both improvisation and discipline to the instrument. Bjork wanted someone who could follow the composition, but had the ability to move beyond it, and claimed this was not easy to find in a harpist. Parkins, most important, sees the harp as a combination of beautiful melody and most interestingly, as a percussive instrument. In the live setting she brings out the chilly air of the Vespertine songs through the beautiful sound of the harp, but also brings an element of danger and tension as she occasionally flails those strings with a bit of violence. Fascinating performer.

The second crucial ingredient is the genius duo of Matmos, two rather nerdy looking gentlemen (sorry guys) who know their hardware, software, and thrive on musical experimentation. On the album, they had only limited chance to contribute, as the songs were largely finished. Here in the live setting, they have the freedom to not only redefine Vespertine, but add their magic to older songs being performed. Matmos is exactly what Bjork needed for her electronic sound. I've been critical of the noisy and awful electronic excesses of some of her 90s material, and Matmos changes that equation. Highly refined, subtle, and sophisticated, they bring the role of the beats and noises to their ultimate service of the music, as opposed to drowning the song or becoming the song. They understood their mission here and they just nailed it. Their work literally creates the snow crunching and icicle-rock atmosphere that Bjork needed for this music. At one point in the show they actually create the sound of "amplified hair and fabric" which was new to me.

The third ingredient was the Il Novecento Orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Simon Lee. Lee was charged with the difficult task of getting musicians all over the world to understand what Bjork wanted, which was not easy. For example, to obtain the somewhat compressed and reserved sound aura that Vespertine demanded, it required not a few violins playing loudly, but an army of violins playing very softly. Both on the Vespertine and Homogenic material, Lee and the Orchestra learned and delivered over two dozen tracks with perfection. The fourth element was the Inuit Choir from Greenland, whom Bjork found by accident while on a vacation there. Again, by chance or by fate, there could not have been a more appropriate choice to create the otherwordly backing vocals of Vespertine. They create the sound of the cold night sky on "Aurora" like I can't even put into words, so gorgeous. They also bring a very authentic folk-music style realism, song tradition, and even dress. Last of course is Bjork herself, sounding as good as she ever has, but here with the material she always deserved. All the over-hyped dance pop is largely gone, replaced by great material and skillfully arranged presentation.

After the music box opening of "Frosti", the Orchestra delivers the dramatic and foreboding "Overture" from SelmaSongs. We then hear the majority of the Vespertine album along with a few older favorites like Possibly Maybe, Isobel, Hyberballad, Human Behaviour, and Joga. At the end they break into the joyous and raucous release of "It's in our Hands" which allows some decompression and movement back into the mix. For all of its beauty, Vespertine can be a bit controlled at times, and you can see the band letting go on this track. The direction and shooting of the show are perfect. No fast edits, no nonsense. Just clear and direct capturing of this intimate performance with the class one would expect from a venue like this. The booklet offers nice black and white portraits of all of the creative players. If you are a Bjork fan, run to get this DVD. If you've maybe only heard Debut and Post and wondered what the fuss is all about, you might want to experience this show. The show and this period in general prove that Bjork was not content to be a "pop star" or a rock artist, but that she had every intention of pushing the sound envelope into new territories. While her early work will always keep her somewhat tethered to a traditional audience, work like this assures the audience must be willing to be challenged as she moves forward.

Bjork has always had an interest in working with unconventional people than her supposed alt-rock domain. Years prior it was Goldie, in this period it was Matmos, a divine harpist, and an Inuit choir. Asked about this years ago she reflected....

"Am I supposed to be with the [%*!#]ing Cranberries, or playing stadiums with REM? They don't interest me."

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#357477) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, December 19, 2010

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