By Chuck Cox
“I don’t know if I can ever see another band live after that,” one of them said. “How do you compare any other band to that?” His buddy quickly answered, “It wouldn’t be fair to compare them to any other band to that.”
That pretty much summed up the two-hour feast for the ears and eyes that was Sigur Ros’ set in front of an adoring crowd that happily sang along with lyrics in the band’s Icelandic native tongue. Sigur Ros, which will release its new album Kveikur in June, truly is like no other band when it comes to a live show.
The band can take a song from a whisper to a scream like few can. And with the visuals to go along with the phenomenal soundtrack Sigur Ros was providing, it was a pretty moving concert experience. Near the end of the second song, “Ny Batteri,” the curtain, which was a visual backdrop initially, dropped to the delight of the crowd. And lead singer Jonsi’s angelic falsetto was impossible not to love.
Each of the 16 songs the band played, inclduing “Yfirbord,” “Hrafntinna,” “Kveikur,” and “Brennisteinn” from the forthcoming album, had a life of their own. Backed by string and horn players who also helped with backing vocals, the quintet was in its natural element of taking control of a crowd. It was easily one of the most attentive crowds I have ever seen. In other words, there was very little conversation going on while the music was playing. That was very refreshing.
The highlight, for me, was the first song of the encore, “Glosoli.” It’s my favorite Sigur Ros song. And it has the trademark slow build into a thunderous crescendo, which then ends up coming full circle back to the quiet sound of a music box playing. It was incredible to finally hear live. And in the quieter moments of songs, I was amazed at how the venue was nearly silent.
As I told you back in December, this is a show I had been looking forward to for a very long time. I missed the first wave of Sigur Ros’ popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And while I did get to see Jonsi play a solo show at Verizon in 2010, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to see the band play together. That was also a great show, but it wasn’t anything like Monday’s concert in terms of crowd or production value. It had some production value, but Sigur Ros took it to the next level with the use of lots of lights and images.
My only complaint about the show was the opening act. It was a guy named Tim Hecker who was essentially a DJ playing bits of prerecorded instrumental music with weird sounds thrown in here and there. His entire 30-minute set also found him behind the curtain I mentioned earlier. That meant we were listening to a guy we really couldn’t see play music we really didn’t know for a half-hour. It didn’t work. At all.
On a strange sidenote, Hecker was not supposed to open the show originally. A band called Oneohtrix Point Never was billed as the opener. And even though the band was nowhere to be found, it still had merch on sale at the show. Very odd. Not sure I’ve ever seen that before.
I’ve got Bon Jovi — sans Richie Sambora — on Thursday night and Frightened Rabbit on Saturday night, so check back for my thoughts on those shows. I get to see products of Iceland, New Jersey, and Scotland all in one week. Some would argue all three are foreign countires.
Oh, yeah, I’ve also got three killer concert road trips on the horizon. I’ll tell you all about them soon.