Their splendid, sparkling fire
I don't know if Dull Flame of Desire by Björk is brassed up in its original incarnation but I can't get enough of hearing it in my head the way I heard it at Radio City Music Hall last Wednesday. The bright orange dot (for this is how I saw her from my balcony perch) chirped "Antony!" and a tall man dressed like a manatee* came out. Fah real, Antony is super tall. Björk is small. They stood side by side, a bright saffron and a muted gray. The horns started a slow, stately procession, like a herd of elephants walking in the dust. The orange and gray nodded along. The smaller one began to sing.
Let me stop a moment to say that I knew that this collaboration existed and I had been looking forward to it. Björk has a knack for finding appropriate vocal foils and Antony with his vibrating, muscular alto (yes, alto) seemed like just the right match. Of course, I couldn't quite imagine what this would sound like and I went into this show without having heard any of the Volta tracks because I wanted a surprise.
I wasn't sure what to think at first. The song is SO SLOW. The two dots didn't sing together initially and Antony seemed nervous during his opening parts. They went back and forth, as if they were discussing a shared secret. The nodding grew more fervent. At one point, around the time that Björk started to go higher with her glass kite voice, Antony warmed up and let loose. I've never seen him live and to all you hatahs out there, the vibrato is FINE. It sounds alive, warm, in your hands and surprisingly, way more traditional than you'd think if you were just going by the recordings. I was so pleased to finally hear it live.
The brass background didn't change at all, it remained stately and thick-sounding. But that's fine, the only thing that needs to change in the song is the relationship between the two voices. They become more and more invested in one another until they're intertwined. Towards the end, Antony, who had been still for most of the performance, started jumping up and down along to Björk part (she smothered an audible giggle at this) and his excitement was ours. Dull Flame of Desire works its magic on you subtly; it has the slow burning thrill of new and unexpected love.
To hear this particular live rendition go download it from the fab Kwaya Na Kisser.
Buy Volta by Björk.
I got these on Emusic. Not from this show but still...gorgeousness.
All Is Full of Love (Live)/Björk (mp3)
Pagan Poetry (Live)/Björk (mp3)
Buy Vespertine Live by Björk from Emusic.
* Not an actual costume but this shapeless shift in gray tones. I've been obsessed with manatees lately (they're smarter than you'd think!) and because I couldn't see very well, it was more fun to picture a singing manatee than squint.