Photo by Ryota Mori
Celestial Sonic Sights and Sounds
Seeing Sigur Ros, one hopes, should feel like a transcendent experience, based just on a lifetime of listening to them intently or just from in passing. The band deliver an unquestionably unique live experience and the mountainous backdrop of the Green Stage makes for a amphitheater show epic in proportions, which seems at odds with the stripped down version of the band presented tonight.
As a three-piece, Jónsi Birgisson, Goggi Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason are grouped in the center of the stage surrounded by lighting strips and a massive LEF screen. The darker opening number “Óveður” pulls us in to the performance with its pulsing beat and gradually builds up to a clash of industrial drumming. “Starálfur” follows up and takes everyone by surprise as the stage is covered in a blue web of lights, gossamer threads that mimic the falsetto vocals keening out across the night. “Sæglópur” signals the real immersion into the show, when the quieter glockenspiel track explodes like the galaxy washing across the screens behind it, a crescendo of bowed guitar and heavy drums creating a massive soundscape that washes over and through you.
Is it a transcendent experience? Almost. The choice of songs is deliberate enough to maintain a consistent mood throughout the 90-minute show and provides a mesmeric and utterly singular experience. The rest of the set deals in celestial, reverential hymns that rise and fall in sonic emotional swells: from quiet and complex, melancholic lullaby to cacophonous, aggressive discordance. The visual magnificence played across the stage removes the band from the picture and creates a visually immersive experience that has to be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated.