The house lights fade until a whisper of gray blankets the auditorium. Human profiles cast shadows on the fire-truck-red curtain as a synthetic pipe organ pulses with an odd-timed melody. At first key stroke, the sold-out crowd scrambles to attention, fervently waiting for the initial breath, the first pitch. Then, out of the mysterious realm behind the stage drapes, an unmistakable voice rises to the ears of her followers, “Cover Me.” Just as she lulls the audience into silence with her patiently unraveled refrains, a bang of the drum, a lift of the curtain, a burst of light: a futuristic world is revealed. Bjork, in a reflective gold space dress, marches forward towards the mic stand to lead this revolutionary vision.

While “Earth Intruders’” percussion-laden sound penetrates the room, three flat screens project swirling neon colors between islands of electronic gear, drums, keys and 10 horn players wearing electric-shaded tunics with flags attached to their backs. Banners of various geometrical dimensions hang in the background with pictures of amphibians painted on them as if the animals were relics of an era passed. From this moment forward, Bjork’s band alternates between ethnic-tinged instrumentals and postmodern rave music, while the singer demonstrates the power of her vocal chords, adept, resonant and gorgeous.

Bjork’s show had a sense of schizophrenia accordant with her versatile catalogue. From the gentle ambiance of “Aurora” to the dramatic bombast of “Bachelorette,” Bjork stomped to fuzzy bass lines, jiggled to intricate harpsichord melodies and even head-banged to blaring horn harmonies. She invited a couple guests to join her ultramodern sonic community, vocalist Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons as well as classical pipa player Min Xiao-Fen. Antony’s quavering swoon intertwined with Bjork’s adroit air in “Dull Flame of Desire,” while Min Xiao-Fen’s nimble fingers added character to the polyrhythmic sensibility of “I See Who You Are.”

Bjork’s collaborations with artists of various cultures and talents transmit an implicit message about the possibilities of human togetherness. As with her music, Bjork promotes the right of the individual to retain his/her identity (all Bjork sounds like Bjork), while working collectively towards the same goal (a lot of Bjork’s music is co-composed). With her newest album, Volta, the singer opts for explicit communication of her ideals by including lyrics, such as “Declare independence/Don’t let them do that to you/Start your own currency/Make your own stamp/Protect your language.”

Bjork closed the night with “Declare Independence” to remind the Apollo audience of her of the bond we share through art. The crowd clapped to the beat, moving its hips as one to the menacing sound of a musical revolution. And then, in a flash, it was over. Fans who were seconds before lost in the cradle of Bjork’s embrace pushed and shoved their way to the aisles. Three young women came close to blows over their seating arrangements. People returned to their passive aggressive nature, but for an hour and a half that night, we were one under Bjork’s umbrella of unity. –Julie Pinsonneault

Set list:
Cover Me
Earth Intruders
Venus as a Boy (abridged)
Dull Flame of Desire (w/ Antony Hegarty)
I See Who You Are (w/ Min Xiao-Fen)
Pleasure is All Mine
All is Full of Love
Army of Me
Oceania (encore)
Declare Your Independence (encore)