Belated anniversary gifts - Part 2

Johnny gave me two tickets to Sigur Ros! Obviously he was my date so we drove to the Verizon Theater located downtown amid skyscrapers, clubs, and pubs. Once inside, we stood in the merch line seemingly forever. Why there were only two merch guys I don't know; Johnny worked merch at The Vatican and he was equally perplexed as we waited and waited and waited. We looked around noticing everyone was a baby, laughed at our mature ages, but then I realized people usually think I'm twelve to both my amusement and chagrin. Due to my short stature I could not see much, looked down, and wondered, Where did all the girls buy their cute shoes - Urban Outfitters? Finally, we purchased my T-shirt of choice, Metal Big Tree (if we had Genevieve or Calvin I'd have snatched the Rufus Baby Grow). I behaved and decided against the Shoulder Bag and Notebook Set which Aunt Denise would understand I need.

We then wandered to our grand seats on the top tier, smack in the middle of the stage. Johnny and I gazed at a sweeping crimson curtain setting a theatrical ambiance. The lights dimmed and what appeared to be four pixies in vintage dresses walked onto the stage: the opening band, Amina. The young ladies played beautiful, modern chamber music tinged with electronica produced by a PowerBook on stage. Each song was more inventive as they played a range of objects including wine glasses, a saw, glockenspiel (orchestra bells), cello, violin, mandolin, harp, and a vibraphone. Amina created artful music minus unnecessary words and moved about the stage with deliberate, possibly choreographed, graceful movements.

After a brief intermission and Johnny's brave foray through the sardine can-seats to purchase overpriced red wine, the lights dimmed again for Sigur Ros. They opened playing "Takk" and one of my favorites, their unintentional Gospel-conduit "Glosoli," both behind an opaque curtain. The band's shadows splashed funhouse-mirror images on the fluid screen. The set list was a linguaphile's dream of Icelandic vocabulary (the translated titles from the album Takk):

Takk ("Thank you")
Glosoli ("Glowing Sole")
Ny Batteri
Saeglopur ("Lost at Sea")
Gong ("Gong")
Andvari ("Zephyr")
Hoppipolla ("Hopping Into Puddles")
Med Blodnasir ("I Have a Nosebleed")
Olsen Olsen
Svo Hljott ("So Quietly")
Heysatan ("Haystack")

The entire show was one expansive, sonic lullaby sung by lead singer Jonsi Birgisson's childlike, ethereal voice. He often stroked and pounded his guitar with a cello bow while singing lyrics in his native tongue or "Hopelandic": haunting, nonsensical sounds using his voice as another instrument. The music sailed and soared, calm leading to a rock crescendo aided by the band - Geory Goggi Holm (bass), Kjartan Sveinsson (keyboards), and Orri Pall Dyrason (drums). They were joined by the lovely Amina who served as their stunning string section.

Sigur Ros's Post-Rock sound is intellectual; unless chosen to be background music you must engage each song actively. Their music does not follow normal pop conventions and since American ears might be unaccustomed to the foreign/imaginary words you learn an enjoyable discipline to appreciate Beauty. It's not all so heady, though. Each song was full of mystery and all the while visuals on the background screen were snatched from dreams: children, swaying flowers, and abstract shapes you might see dancing on your eyelids. Another remarkable feat of Sigur Ros was they were completely unpretentious - the antithesis of the "rock star" image. They seemed to be enveloped with desire to create well-crafted music, period. There never was a spotlight on any of the band members. And, after the show you would never know their political, lifestyle, or religious views.

The band's absorption into each song was precisely why some of the fans were perplexing. In fact, the only negative part of the concert was a few drunk and/or high "woo-hooing" fans who must have thought they were cheering for AC/DC. That and the potheads two rows below us lighting up the putrid smell. I loathe that smell. Even if I did drugs (which I don't) I would pick one without a scent, especially the cannabis scent. Thankfully, Sigur Ros took us beyond the idiocy on a smooth ride of sound. It was not a concert inciting dance (such as Marah). Instead, the whole production played out like a film or painting requiring attention. Sigur Ros closed the show with an encore song, "Popplagio," and afterwards returned with Amina for a classy bow to the audience while the word Takk hung on the screen behind. Since takk means "thank you" the band was kindly expressing their gratitude to their fans while we reciprocated with drooling applause. It is concerts of this caliber that renew my love for music.


March to the Sea said...

great review..i have a few reviews of their shows on my site

Jenni said...

Thanks! It was such a great show. I will check out your reviews, too.