Friday, September 26, 2008

Sigur Ros @ Orpheum Theater(Minneapolis) 9/25/08

Sigur Ros in Minneapolis at Orpheum 9/25/08

As someone who perhaps values lyrics above all other things in music, Sigur Rós has always had a unique place in my heart, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that I can never understand any of their lyrics. Their music has always freed me from the lyrical scrutiny I place on other bands, and allowed me the space within their music to create my own meanings to their moods and melodies. And that is why they are such a remarkable band, in my opinion, because they give the listener the opportunity to interpret the songs in their own way, and attach significance where they see fit. This freedom and interaction also creates quite a rabid and passionate fan base, as evidenced by Sigur Rós playing yet another sold out show in Minneapolis, this time at the Orpheum Theater.
Sigur Ros in Minneapolis at Orpheum 9/25/08
(For More photos from the show check out My Flickr Page)
Given the rather upbeat nature of Sigur Rós' new record, 'Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust,' I expected this show to be much more lively and celebratory than the other six or seven times I've seen them, although this was the first time since 2001 they were playing completely by themselves (without the beautiful string accompaniment of Amiina that really fleshed out their sound on recent tours). But things started out quite slowly, with the slow build (and subsequent flashing lights in time to the music) of 'Heysátan' that found lead singer Jonsi Birgisson mournfully playing a slow dirge on an old organ. The tune was more about the restraint and intentionally slow pacing of the song, than the notes the band were making, and it seemed the other members were a touch unsure of how to add depth and accompaniment to the tune. Next up was another desolate, sad number, 'Fljótavík,' from the new album. It's a gorgeous song, which Jonsi sang with passion, but again it just added to the down-tempo, melancholy start to the show.

A lot of attention in the press and blogosphere was given to 'All Alright,' from the new record, being the first song Jonsi has ever sung in English, but until last night I had no idea how fragile and tender the song is. It was also the only song of the night that found Jonsi without an instrument other than his voice. He sang while standing uneasily at the mic stand, unsure of what to do with his hands, fidgeting ever so slightly as the tune progressed and gained emotional momentum. It was a rueful ode to someone you love who's far away, letting them know that despite your intense loneliness, you still are 'All Alright.' (At least that's what it means to me-see what sort of lyrical analysis happens when they sing in English.) It was another lovely song, but somber, so very somber. This show needed a bolt of energy to liven things up.

Sigur Ros in Minneapolis at Orpheum 9/25/08

Things picked up a bit with 'Njósnavélin (The Nothing Song)' from the '( )' album, which built to it's emotionally charged, stirring climax. And while it's still a restrained, morose song, it breathed some life into the set, and set the stage quite well for the turbulent and wonderful 'Ný batterí,' which, compared to the start of the set, went off like a bomb. It was the spark the night needed, and from here on out the set was pure sonic bliss. I've often told my friends that Sigur Rós is one of the loudest bands I've ever seen live, and they are incredulous. But this song (and some of the ones that followed) only proves my point. Starting with a Jonsi-led, feedback-laced intro to the song that was reminscent of Sonic Youth, this song eased was propelled by the pounding drumming of Orri Páll Dyrason (sporting a festive crown for the evening), which shook the walls of the old Orpheum, and certainly woke up anyone who was lulled to sleep by the slow paced start of the show. It was an incredible song that seemed to inject some energy into the crowd and the band. And the band kept the momentum up, with one of my favorite songs on the new album, 'Inní mér syngur vitleysingur,' which found Jonsi sharing a bench with pianist Kjartan Sveinsson, both of them playing lively keys that carried the buoyant song, with the screens behind the stage capturing the movement of their sets of hands on the piano. It was this celebratory and festive aspect of the new songs that I was expecting to hear more of coming into the show, and it really was a highlight of the set.

'Hoppípolla/Með blóðnasir,' kept the strong spirit of the set going, and was the first audience participation part of the show, with Jonsi asking the crowd for to sing along as the song reached it's climax, and it was wonderful to hear a crowd that had been respectfully stone silent all evening raise it's voices and sing (although we couldn't quite match Jonsi's pitch-who can really.) It was a beautiful moment in a set that had many of them. Another jovial new song was next, 'Við spilum endalaust,' that again exemplified the jaunty, positive feel from the new record, but could've used the horns accompaniment that is featured so prominently on the album version. The ten-minute opus that is 'Viðrar vel til loftárása,' was up next, and it was wonderful and sprawling, with plenty of space within the song to get lost in your own thoughts, I just couldn't help but ponder how the beautiful strings of Amiina would have augmented the song so nicely. 'Festival,' was just perfect, simmering and slow to start out, with Jonsi delicately giving the song shape, and Orri's drumming taking the song to it's jubilent conclusion. It was another standout from a show that had clearly gained momentum from it's melancholic start.

'Sæglópur,' found the entire band gathered around the various xylophone's onstage, each playing out a part of the opening melody before switching to their standard instruments, and propelling the song to it's glorious heights. This song has always been one of my favorites, and last nights version was powerful and stunning, again led by Orri's frenetic drumming and Jonsi's imploring falsetto. 'Hafssól,' is a song meant to be heard and experienced live. The distinctive way Georg plays bass by strumming the strings with a stick is a feat unto itself, laying the percussive groundwork for a truly unique and moving song that is unlike anything else in modern music, and last night it built to a cacophonous crescendo that left me and everyone else in attendance floored. It was phenomenal.

The party that is 'Gobbledigook' closed out the main set, and even though I tried to steer clear of reviews and spoilers regarding the current live show, I knew going in about the confetti and added percussion and audience participation for this song, so that part, although completely enjoyable, wasn't a surprise. However, the sheer volume of confetti was indeed a surprise, and having a Sigur Rós show suddenly turn into a Flaming Lips concert was very unexpected, and quite joyous. At all the Sigur Rós shows I've seen in the past, the crowd has always been silent and respectful of the band, so it was nice to be able to let loose with the band a little bit, and the band certainly enjoyed it as well. It was a jubilant end to a main set that had become transcendent.

Sigur Ros in Minneapolis at Orpheum 9/25/08
(For More photos from the show check out My Flickr Page)
After we all cleared the confetti out of our hair the best we could, the audience cheered until Jonsi, Georg, and Kjartan came back out for an all acoustic 'Illgresi' that was sparse and lovely, but really slowed down the momentum built up by the closing of the main set. But that was just temporary, as 'Popplagið (The Pop Song)' was up next to close out the night. I don't know of many songs in contemporary music that have the steady build-up of momentum and energy that this song has. Gradually, over the course of the songs 10+ minutes, you can feel a storm coming, but you're not sure when it's going to hit and where it's going to come from. You just know clouds are forming, and the waves of sound are going to crash over you before too long. And crash they do, as Jonsi's plaintive screaming and frenzied guitar work are matched in time by Orri's pounding drums. And again, Sigur Rós prove to be one of the loudest live bands I've ever seen, as waves of sound actually cause a breeze on my pant leg (the fifth row seats also probably added to that. Thanks Klink.) It was an ending that this show deserved, and I couldn't have asked for more. Simply stunning.

And after the standing ovation, and the band's customary curtain-call and group bow, that was it. There really isn't another live act out there quite like Sigur Rós (although opening band Parachutes certainly tries, sounding so much like the headliners that it was awkward. A good band, mind you, they just have to find their own style and sound), and while this show was fantastic, it was slow in it's build-up and energy. Usually, you don't have to wait for something transcendent to happen at a Sigur Rós concert, it happens right away. But this show, you had to be patient, and brave the melancholic start of the concert, to get to the exuberant and incomparable moments, of which there were many. Those are the heights that Sigur Rós can take you to, and sometimes it takes days to come down. Thank you, lads, for another incredible concert experience. Come back soon.

Sigur Ros in Minneapolis at Orpheum 9/25/08


All alright
Ný batterí
Inní mér syngur vitleysingur
Hoppípolla/Með blóðnasir
Við spilum endalaust
Viðrar vel til loftárása



For More photos from the show check out My Flickr Page

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