Edit this event
- Sigur Rós »
A Sigur Rós show, like the music they make, is always special. Yet rarely is the venue in any way comparable to the splendour and majesty of their songs. It doesn’t matter – they can fill any vacant black hole, however big, and make it feel as if the universe is collapsing into it, stars, planets, moons and all. Tonight’s relatively intimate setting, however, is possibly as close as a building can come to matching the ineffable beauty of the Icelandic band – ornate yet understated, tranquil yet – even for a non-believer – powerful. The only place more perfect for the band to play is outside in the country they come from, where, as anyone who’s seen last year’s film, Heima, will attest, they become part of the scenery, embodying it, possessing it, bringing it alive.
But let’s reel this in slightly, because with Sigur Rós it’s all too easy to get carried away. They’re a band that almost inherently demand that of their audience, both emotionally and physically, that inspire a level of devotion and reverence in their fans that’s surely unique. Never will you hear people talking during their songs (except, perhaps, Paul Weller, but that’s a story for another time) – instead everybody just soaks up the music, the emotion, the moment. It’s a courtesy extended to their support act too. Helgi Jonsson, who plays trombone with Sigur Rós’ brass band, plays to a slowly filling room, but those in attendance pay full attention to his tender, acoustic musings. They fall somewhere between The Bends-era Radiohead and, unsurprisingly, the headliners themselves – melancholy songs full of cracked pathos and hushed, whispered, smoky vocals – and are a perfect lead-in for what’s to follow.
There’s no suppressing the delight when the lights go off and Sigur Rós come onto the small, arched stage. There’s no screen separating them from everybody else, as there often is at the bigger venues, no elongated shadows or artistic projections to hide behind – just the band, their instruments and five huge, illuminated balloons. There doesn’t need to be anything else – the songs and the acoustics do the rest. They begin with the distorted, rumbling atmospherics of ‘Svefn-g-englar’, the sound of angels dying, icebergs breaking, a world collapsing. From there, it’s relentless, the band switching from the dark and ominous to the majestic and ethereal – empyreal songs that root themselves in your bones and your blood, nestling cold beneath your skin.
They begin alone, just the four of them, but are soon joined by Amiina, their trusty string quartet, and then a song later by the five piece brass band, who march from the balcony behind the stage, past the band and back up again. It’s an exhilarating moment, another climax on top of everything that’s already going just three songs in. What follows is layer upon layer of darkness and light, beauty and noise. ‘Hoppipolla’ – the song used in the trailers for the Planet Earth television series – receives a rapturous reception, but it’s ‘Olsen Olsen’ and the trembling, tortured instrumentation of ‘Hafssol’ which takes the performance to another level entirely, singer Jónsi Birgisson’s voice flailing above the pounding, pulsating rhythm of the song as he thrashes a cello bow against his guitar, shredding it to pieces. As the song erupts and white noise fills the white interior of the church, you can almost feel the walls tremble. ‘Gobbledigook’, from appropriately titled new album Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (translation: “with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly”, review), allows for an unusual moment of light-hearted audience participation – the band, clearly having a fantastic time, encourage everyone to clap along, and then release a snowstorm of white confetti into the sacred space.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are two encores. The first is a brash, destructive version of ‘Popplagið’, the eighth song from their untitled album, ( ), which is as terrifying as it is soothing. It shreds and shrills all sadness and joy out of you, leaving you bewildered and confused, happy and sad, achingly empty, utterly full. The second comes after a lengthy pause, an insatiable audience unwilling to let the band go home before they play one more. So the four core members re-emerge for quite possibly the saddest, most moving seven minutes these ears have ever heard – an aching, gasping version of ‘All Alright’, the band’s first English language song. When the lights finally come on and the night is over, everybody slowly shuffles out. Words are rendered useless. You can feel, somewhere inside, a piece of you missing, lost forever. But there’s also something new present, which wasn’t there before. There is nothing to say – all you can do is feel and try to remember and, yes, get carried away remembering. There are no words.
- Drowned in Sound's Favourite Albums of 2012: 100-51
- Video Round-up: Sigur Ros, Metric, Hey Sholay, Foals + more!
- Half-Year: DiS' Most Read Articles, Reviews and Threads of 2012 (so far!)
- Sigur Rós - Valtari
- Sigur Rós - Valtari
- Hear Sigur Ros' new album right here at 7pm tonight
- Valtari Hour: Sigur Rós premiere new album
- "It actually feels like coming home again" - DiS meets Jonsi from Sigur Ros