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Björk Takes Manhattan, Part II

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Bjork_lGem sweater — that’s what popped into my head when I sat down to write my report of my second Björk concert in less than a week, which took place at New York City’s United Palace Theater. I speak not of Lady B’s stage attire on Saturday night (more on that in a sec), but of the giant rhinestone-embellished cardigan sported by a woman sitting across the aisle from me during the illustrious event. The sweater was blinding in its sparkling, black-and-gold hideousness — entirely worthy of YouTuber Leslie Hall’s infamous ode to the art of jewel-encrusted knits. The thing was especially mesmerizing when its wearer went spastic — flailing her arms, leaping in place, screeching her lungs out — which was pretty much throughout the entire 75-minute show.

And that, PopWatchers, is my long-winded way of saying that NYC Björk show No. 2 did indeed boast a different crowd from last Wednesday’s subdued audience at Radio City, where I sat next to a 30-something woman wearing (unironic) mom jeans. Here, I was a few rows behind a tall, skinny guy in white, unnaturally skinny jeans and white vinyl shoes. (Not a good look, friend. Oh, but Natalie Portman was there too — thankfully, in normal jeans.) The hipster crowd must have taken more than fashion cues from Gem Sweater Gal, cause the entire 3,000-plus capacity house leapt out of their seats the second the lights went down and Björk sang the first few bars of “Cover Me.”

That’s right. She opened not with her new single “Earth Intruders,” but with an oldie from 1995’s Post.Accompanied solely by fellow Icelander Jónas Sen on the harpsichord, Björk teasingly cooed the song from behind the closed stage curtain,which eventually opened to reveal, as Little Edie Bouvier would say,”the best costume for the day”: a flouncy, rainbow-striped frockthat kinda looked like a sombrero. (I like to think that the outfit, pictured above, was her nod toCinco de Mayo.) From there, she kept shaking up Wednesday night’s set,rewarding us with four songs from 1997’s genius Homogenic,including a glorious brass-and-piano rendition of “Immature.” Isquealed like a girl in a bedazzled cover-up when she performed”Hyperballad” and smiled right along with her when she realized she’dinverted some lyrics. (No worries, Björk: “car parts, cutlery andbottles” sounds just as poetic as “car parts, bottles and cutlery.”)

What didn’t change from concert No. 1 was Björk’s energy. It’s not justthat she sings her heart out from night to night — that we expect fromsomeone who once said that to her, singing was like breathing. Whatmakes her shows so — dare I say it? — transporting is that she clearlyhas so much fun performing: marching under red lights during “Army ofMe,” scurrying across the stage throughout “Hyperballad,” orhead-banging for the violent climax of “Pluto.” And when Antony Hegarty(of Antony & the Johnsons) joined her for their duet “Dull Flame ofDesire,” she greeted him with a happy little hop. I ask you,PopWatchers, how many of you can say your work inspires you to joyouslyjump in the air?

With the Palace show now behind me, that leaves just one final stage inthis self-imposed test of Björk Love. At this point, I’m no longerquestioning my stamina. Heck, I’m even thinking of ditching this wholeCannes Film Festival thing the magazine is sending me to next week andcatching a few more dates on Björk’s U.S. tour. (Ha, ha, ha! Kidding,editors! And by the way, I’m blissfully leaping in my seat as I writethis!) But there is still one thing I wonder: How many more scary gemsweaters must I encounter?!

I’ll be back with a report following this Wednesday’s show at the Apollo Theater.