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London N1 Union Chapel

Sssh! Creak! Sssh! Never has a door in need of oil created so much havoc at a 'rock gig'.[B] Bjvrk[/B] and [B]The Brodsky Quartet[/B] have taken their places by the pulpit and whenever someone walks t

Sssh! Creak! Sssh! Never has a door in need of oil created so much havoc at a 'rock gig'. Bjvrk and The Brodsky Quartet have taken their places by the pulpit and whenever someone walks through the offending door they are glowered at by the rest of the audience. That's not all: people tut when others take pictures. It's been commanded that mobile phones are switched off. There'll be a 20-minute interval, adding to the rarefied atmosphere, and if you must drink beer, you must do so silently. This isn't a rock gig, then. Awash with cosy Christmas vibrations, this is more like Carols By Candlelight for the James Lavelle lookalike generation.



At first you fear this is going to be a drag, that those not literate in classical music, or indeed sitting down and behaving, are going to struggle. After Bjvrkballads and Bjvrkbeats, you feel tonight's Bjvrkestra may be one sortie too far on her mission to tread ground other divas fear. But, shit, this stuff really gets to you in the end.



Flapping her arms like a child in a school play, barefooted Bjvrk's latest dalliance with the unplugged soars from a perturbing start to rushing highs where her voice spars with the string section and spirals gloriously to the ornate rafters. Stripped bare, songs like 'All Neon Like' and 'Like Someone In Love' reveal themselves to have good, strong bones, packed with all the emotional calcium you could ask for. She airs a host of new material, too, most notably 'I've Seen It All' - a gushing missive of multiple dimensions. Come 'Possibly Maybe', the odd mix of Lavelle types, couples at their first gig in five years and the milder end of cyber punkdom to whom Bjvrk plays, are united in awe. Sometimes she sings like she's about to pop; sometimes like she's weightless; at other times with palpable ferocity bubbling beneath the beatific surface. At all times, though, she sings faultlessly.



Well, faultlessly is perhaps not the operative word, as Bjvrk mainly sings about imperfections and poignant obstructions blocking her route to wonderland. It's all about her leaping, charging, fighting and stumbling through her own strange world in her own strange way.



Then, towards the end, it's about the Icelandic dreaming of 'Anchor Song', the freakish timbres of 'Joga' and an 'It's Oh So Quiet' where shining fragility takes the place of vaudeville brouhaha. Finally, mobile phones are switched on, the door creaks endlessly and normal life resumes. But people remain dazed, like they've just witnessed a thrash-metal band at full-pelt. Another detour from the straight path for Bjvrk therefore scores as another lustrous triumph.

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