Live: Bjork At Wilderness Festival

Iceland's queen of kooky puts her heart and soul into performing at the Oxfordshire Fest.

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As festivals go, Wilderness is the most middle-class, jolly hockey sticks, rah rah, smash-the-oiks event you will ever witness.

Set in the beautiful country idyll of Cornbury Park, owned by Lord and Lady Rotherwick, and a stone’s throw from Chipping Norton (hub of the infamous set featuring such Telegraph-friendly celebrity slime as Jeremy Clarkson, Rebekah Brooks, David and Samantha Cameron), the music is secondary over a weekend that features full cricket matches with commentary, gin tasting seminars, archery lessons and, if you have the cash, the chance to pay the best part of a hundred quid to have Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett cook your dinner. Monsters Of Rock it certainly ain’t.

Bless Björk, you can count on this goddess of strange and wonderful artistic expression to shake things up. As pink smoke billows above the stage, and boys with polo player haircuts and Chelsea girls dressed as mermaids (the day’s fancy dress theme) gather in the hope of dancing along to It’s Oh So Quiet and Venus As A Boy, it doesn’t take long to work out that the Icelandic genius isn’t planning a greatest hits set.

Dressed in a red gown with a huge, shield-like disc covering her heart and a feline headdress obscuring her face to throw attention on her voice alone, she gives a performance aching with sadness, plucking most of the songs from her new album Vulnicura, an emotionally ragged break-up record which is a beautifully difficult listen.

Backed by a full orchestra, she wrenches pain from the deepest pits of her psyche, tracks like the lush Lionsong presented as far more than mere pop music – this is performance art, an exploration of the human condition overwhelming in its honesty. Not that those heading back to the foodie tents are impressed – one loudly exclaiming, “It’s all the same fucking song” as he tramps off in the direction of the champagne bar. It’s only when Björk pulls out old favourites Army Of Me and Hyperballad, with fireworks tearing the sky apart, that the dwindling audience gets truly on side. It’s a real shame, because with this mesmerising set she is tearing out her heart and offering it to us, still beating and bloody. Björk gave us her all, and deserved better in return.

Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.