First Night: Video queen who can play, rewind and go forward fast

Bjork: London Palladium

TO THE left, the six women and two men of the Icelandic String Octet sat down in front of music stands on a raised L-shaped dais in front of a ragged backcloth. To the right, stooped the solitary Mark Bell, ready to operate pre-programmed backing tracks. Then came Bjork, dark-haired in a white party dress whose sleeves made Christmas snow angel shapes as she raised her arms.

Bjork is one of those artists who can do no wrong. She is a kind of dance act, an indie trooper, an avant-garde Shirley Bassey, a fashion icon, a pop idol and the quintessential video star for the Nineties. The last attribute is demonstrated by the collection of clips of wildly variable quality and content in her new VHS compilation Volumen. Whether she is swooning in expensive special effects or flattened in unflattering monochrome, her gurning features and jerky movements are screaming "watch me, me, me"!

She is a genuine creative musician. On stage, the wonderful wayward instrument of her voice becomes more like a continuous story-telling improvisation that can meld the histrionics of "Isobel" and the commentary of "Human Behaviour" into a bigger totality.

Where the Shepherd's Bush Empire gig of February 1997 (available on video) used a band including the wonderful Yasuhiro "Coba" Kobayahsi on accordion and Maltese drummer Trevor Morais, the latest version relies entirely on the singer's performance skills to communicate. The lack of musical interplay between the twin "playback" poles of strings and machines meant that endings were often unsatisfactory, for example, but there were plenty of impressive moments: the skeletal drum pattern for "Possibly Maybe", skipping go-go-ish beats and clever digital distortion woven into the overall collage of Bjork's set. The string arrangements provided musical drama and some surprising reinterpretations of the older hits - when you could hear them.

You would think the Palladium's scale ideal for Bjork's intimate electro- chamber pop. Unfortunately, the audience was punished by cloth-eared sound mix better suited to a stadium rock gig. As well as losing arrangement details and string timbres, the live sound managed to obscure too much of the main attraction - Bjork herself. We heard the hits, from "Hunter" to "Violently Happy" and we thrilled to the light show, but we did not really hear enough of the music in that unique voice.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments