REVIEW: Björk: All is Full of Love (The Blackbird Ensemble)

Review by Tim George

[What the Bjork]

The latest project from Blackbird Ensemble, Björk: All is Full of Love is a musical tribute that never feels like it. Featuring a revolving line-up of guest vocalists (Jessie Cassin, Anna Coddington, TEEKS and Sarah Belkner), the Ensemble have crafted a self-contained project that re-contextualises Bjork’s music around the underlying theme of the track the project is named for.

Arranged by musical director Claire Cowan and Belkner, the songs feel completely of a piece. Despite tone, subject and style, they flow together as a multifaceted aural experience. A large share of the credit goes to the Ensemble, but also to the technical elements of the stage show.

The thing I plugged into the most is the atmosphere. Johnny Cross’s lighting and Sam Mence’s sound design perfectly complement the musicians, adding shade and subtle tones which make the overall experience more visceral.

I am not the biggest Björk fan, so a few of the songs were unfamiliar, but it is a testament to the experience that I felt completely invested. ‘Venus as a Boy’ has a neat jazzy vibe, and the Ensemble’s version of the nature-centric Isobel, is fantastically immersive (Cross and Mence really make their presence felt on this track).

All of the singers are great. That sounds like a sweeping generalisation, but they are great – managing to master the music without trying to ape Bjork’s acrobatic vocal abilities. TEEKS stood out the most, largely because of the contrast between his soulful baritone and the other singers. There were a few spots where there seemed to be a disjuncture between his vocal and the song, but it just adds to the experience.

Regardless of whether you like Björk or not, All is Full of Love is definitely worth checking out.

Björk: All is Full of Love plays at Q Rangatira until 11 Nov. 

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Penny Dodd

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