"Are you enjoying Queens?" Bjork asked with an exultant squeal during the February 3rd opening of her Biophilia residency at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows. It was a peculiar question during a performance set in an alternate universe of music, technology and primordial emotions, in a room that looked nothing like the neighborhood outside. The museum's Great Hall is an eerie windowless space with a cathedral-high ceiling and irregularly curved walls that suggest convulsive ripples in time and space.
But the Icelandic singer's choice of setting was effective and moving, even more immersive than the Biophilia show I saw in Reykjavik last fall. Surrounded by a future-now production of exotic invented instruments (the gravity harp, a gameleste) triggered with iPad sorcery, Bjork created a dazzling compact world of heated passions and excited science heightened by the tall black space overhead and an outer ring of darkness that seemed to gently press the in-the-round audience (under 700) against the tiny stage, almost into the show. Bjork often sang from inside a circle of gold satin, blue sequins and gleaming blonde hair formed by the Graduale Nobili, her 24-piece Icelandic female choir. It was a shimmering cocoon unto itself.
There have been changes in the production since its October run in Iceland. Bjork's giant orange wig was less like a day-glo Brillo pad in Queens, closer to a mushroom-like bouffant with streaks of robin's-egg blue. The huge Tesla coils that spit lighting and beats in "Thunderbolt" came down in a vertical, rather than horizontal, cage. Max Wiesel, who designed the iPad apps for Biophilia, is actually in the band now, running the electronics. (When Bjork introduced him, she noted that it was his first live gig ever.)
Bjork also dropped two older crowd-pleasers, "Venus as a Boy" and "Isobel," that were in the Reykjavik set list, along with one Biophilia track, "Sacrifice.