Pop: The ice melts: Bjork Shepherds Bush Empire, London

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Bjork

Shepherds Bush Empire, London

To many people, the myth always seemed a bit of a game - her supernatural otherness too contrived and elaborate to stomach. But what most incited wrath seemed to be her tousle-headed enthusiasm, a devilish lust for life. In fact, what mostly has is the bravery to go through with her cockeyed dreams, to make her life bigger than it was in Iceland where she spent many years at a conveyor belt, squeezing worms out of rancid fish for the nation's favourite delicacy - rotten shark in sour milk.

These days, though, Ms Gudmundsdottir's lunacy is tempered. After the heady success of her first two albums, Debut and Post, life decided to play its own wayward game on , and a strained 12 months has preceded the release of her dark and brooding new LP, Homogenic. Highlights of 1996 included the day at Bangkok airport when a TV camera crew attempted to corner her 10-year-old son, Sindri; attempted to smack the interviewer's head against a wall. Shortly after that, Ricardo Lopez, self-styled " obsessive" from Florida, mailed his heroine a parcel bomb and then filmed himself blowing his brains out. When her relationship with technomeister Goldie came to an end, she took herself off to a remote part of Spain and began to remake herself.

If you caught the recent South Bank Show documentary, you'll know the new is less a hyperactive child, more a genuine nervous wreck, complete with face pulling, random scratching and twitching. With this as a background, her show on Thursday was deeply impressive.

gigs are normally upbeat clubby raves but, in keeping with the tone of the album, this began in a subdued way. Tucked to one side of a stage lit like an evening aquarium sat the Icelandic String Quartet; across from them, synth king Mark Bell presided over the techno aspect. With bare feet, the ice queen herself wore a long, fuchsia-pink sequinned gown cut away to reveal sneaky little culottes. Amid shivering lights she delivered some of the most delicate, haiku-like songs from Debut - "You've Been Flirting Again" and "Isobel" - against Arctic-clear waves of violin and cello, her most assured rendering ever. Momentum gathered for "All Neon Like", a cocoon of sound building into a disturbing, subterranean drum pattern; "Possibly Maybe!" was a torrid thing during which she grabbed her trailing skirt in both tiny fists, then dropped it to make birdie, biting mouths of her hands as, in a voice as huskily intimate as Monroe's, she promised, "I'll suck my tongue in - grrr - remembrance of you", surely the most seductive line in pop. By the time we'd reached "5 Years", she was bouncing from the wings, debunking lines like, "I dare you to take me on!" with a Shirley Temple insouciance. With an automaton-jerky bow, she piped a coquettish "Sinkyou" before disappearing. You were left remembering Bono's words: "The girl has a voice like an icepick it will travel though metal and glass ... and it goes straight to me heart, what can I tell you?"

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