Last night I had the privilege of seeing a live performance by the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós.
In attempting to describe it, words will no doubt fail me many times:
I was completely and utterly blown away.
All the hype surrounding Sigur Rós' live show is true. Jonsi þor Birgisson, Georg Holm, Kjartan Sveinsson, Orri Páll Dýrason, and the string quartet Amina project a superhuman burst of emotional energy in the waves of sound they conjure forth from their instruments. For the short hours of the concert, I believed in solipsism—but they were the only people in the universe who existed, and I was a figment of their imagination.
Sigur Rós' performing style could at times be likened to shoegazing. Jonsi once curled up on the floor of the stage to manipulate his guitar, rocking back and forth, and Kjartan Sveinsson, especially, spent most of the show hunched over keyboards or with his back to the audience as he played his guitar. But no—Sigur Rós plays stargazer music. There was something so incredibly transcendent about the experience... I felt myself moved as music has never moved me before.
Their set begins with the first track of ( ), with a laptop contributing many of the computerized sounds. Our anticipation builds as we wait for the first taste of Jonsi's vocals, a piercingly beautiful wailing. They continue into track two of ( ), but of course I lose track of where they go next; I know they played most of the first half of ( ), but it doesn't matter. They eventually flow into Ágætis Byrjun, and even, I think, play some tracks from their first release, Von, before returning to the epic closing track of ( ).
At several points, the concert is marred by the only less than perfect aspect of the evening: a fire alarm. Their music drowns it out, and the flashing of its lights only adds to the spectacle: none of us in the audience even think about leaving. I learn something:
WE WOULD RATHER RISK DEATH THAN BREAK THIS MOMENT
Sigur Rós' musicianship is incredible. Of course, it must be heard, but some aspects stand alone: Jonsi singing, Modest Mouse-style, into the pickups of his electric-acoustic guitar. Georg Holm playing his bass with a drumstick, and later FULLY ROCKING OUT, whaling on his axe, so to speak, during the closing song. Jonsi first revealing what a cello bow and a guitar can do, his elbow at first drawing the bow slowly, creating a surprising amount of sound with that subtle movement, then faster, rhythmically, glowing red and green in the stage lighting, summoning a massive wall of noise. Orri Páll Dýrason, drumming like a madman, smashing his drums, sillhouetted by a million beams of white fire, all alone, like furious waves bashing the shore. Kjartan Sveinsson playing an a-melodic frill on a small flute in the middle of a storm of reverb, and during the song Olson Olson, playing that heart-rending flute melody that brought tears to my eyes, and if repeated, would have sent them streaming down my face. I found myself out of breath after intense passages and gasped in astonishment with the rest of the audience when the stage's twin disco balls (which I initially thought were hopelessly tacky) were illuminated and sent tendrils of bright white light throughout the room. A video accompanied the entire performance: slowed, blurry images of children playing and dancing, snow falling, random color patterns, and obligatory post-rock images of electrical towers. The lightshow itself was fantastic, changing with the mood of the music.
I don't know what else to say. Go listen to Sigur Rós. And drop everything if you ever get a chance to hear them live.
(dtaylorsingletary and I didn't get to meet up at the show, really, but we did glimpse eachother. Maybe some other time.)