ROCK / All white on the night

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The Independent Culture
FEW ALBUMS this year will exude a greater sense of musical adventure than Bjork's Debut. She discards the wanton obtuseness of her old band, Icelandic indie megastars the Sugarcubes, in favour of a more rewarding kind of complexity. The pristine quality of the arrangements (many of them co-written with former Soul II Soul mainstay Nellee Hooper) and the sheer variety of musical inflections - from free jazz to Eastern classical - were always going to be hard to reproduce live. Her first attempt, at the Forum, has some great moments but does not quite hold together.

She takes the stage dressed in a voluminous white crepe lampshade ensemble, her hair scraped into Viking bunches. Back-projections of water ripples and rushing clouds enhance the mercantile ambience, and her voice is as bracing as a slap in the face with a salt-hardened spinnaker. The problem lies with her backing crew, particularly the rhythm section, who seem less at ease with the sudden changes of musical direction than Bjork herself. Bass and drums lurch in and out of dub with a self-consciousness reminiscent of the Police circa 'Walking on the Moon'.

The uncertainty of the musicians communicates itself to the crowd, who, though united in goodwill, are not sure what to make of it all. The party atmosphere which surfaces when the tempo ups to rave levels on 'Crying' or the exuberant 'Big Time Sensuality', becomes uncomfortable during the supper-club jazz standard 'Like Someone in Love', or the stunning, slow horn rhapsody 'Anchor Song'. At its best, here and during the luminous 'Come to Me', this is a show of enormous promise, but a smaller venue would have been easier to command. Bjork's second booking - supporting U2 at Wembley yesterday - will have been a big challenge.

Audience uncertainty is not a problem for Iggy Pop - James Newell Osterberg has learnt a thing or two about giving the people what they want over the years. There's no 'if you don't listen to

the new album, you can't have any hits' rubbish with Iggy. He launches straight into the great Stooges punk primer, instantly transforming the Forum into a happily seething melee.

The transition from self-lacerating high priest of drug-addled nihilism to clean-living fount of optimism would have destroyed a lesser man (the masochism of old resurfaces only once, when he urges those responsible for the hail of plastic cups with which he is affectionately greeted to 'throw something that hurts'), but Iggy is in rude health. His remarkable body, on show throughout, appears to have been hewn from a single knot of gristle. His penis, ritually offered up to the crowd during 'Real Wild Child', is commendably unassuming.

The music has fattened up a bit around the arteries. Iggy's new band churn out 'TV Eye', 'No Fun' and 'Search & Destroy' in chunky slabs. The volume is fabulous, as is Mr Pop's energy level, but neither the cracked splendour of his voice nor the real air of violence which gave the songs their initial power quite come through on this occasion. Iggy is undaunted. He dismembers mike-stands. He abuses the bouncers. He bounces round the stage, trousers round his ankles, scarlet Y-fronts laterally bisecting well-muscled buttocks. The child in the 'I'm a big kid now' trainer-pants advert must be frightened for his job.

Iggy Pop, Manchester Academy, 061-834 5104, tonight.

(Photograph omitted)

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