Thursday, September 25, 2008

Concert Review: Sigur Ros at United Palace (NY) - 9.18.08

Ah yes, the long-awaited Sigur Ros review. Even though I've been to two shows since this one, this one is still freshest in my mind. It was quite the spectacle. Those Icelanders know how to put on an ambient show... fo sho.

First, the setlist, copied from the Sigur Ros message board:

01 svefn-g-englar
02 glósóli
03 ný batterí
04 fljótavík
05 við spilum endalaust
06 hoppípolla / með blóðnasir
07 svo hljótt
08 heysátan
09 viðrar vel til loftárása
10 inní mér syngur vitleysingur
11 sæglópur
12 hafsól
13 gobbledigook

14 illgresi
15 popplagið

For most of you, and for myself, a self-proclaimed Sigur Ros fan, those song titles mean next to nothing. They certainly don't make it easy for their English-speaking audience. (This is the band that released an album called "( )" with all untitled tracks!) Suffice it to say, they played a bunch of beautiful, trippy, almost supernatural music to an adoring crowd. The venue, an old converted church I believe, was stunning in appearance and acoustics. It was an emotional experience for a lot of people, I think. I definitely heard a few sniffles. 

Lead singer Jonsi's angelic voice did things I didn't think were possible, like sustaining the last beautiful high note of the opening song for what seemed like an hour and still putting a little flourish at the end of it. The instrumentals were what they had to be, but not spectacular. The violin bow on the guitar makes such a cool sound, it makes me wonder why more bands don't do it. 

In the background was some creepy, grainy, blurry footage of children and dolls, and occasional close-ups (also grainy) of the band members' hands and instruments. They definitely have a strange aesthetic. In addition to those images, the drummer was wearing a crown of some sort, and Jonsi's coat had what looked like tinsel hanging from it. More power to them, though. They'd be nothing without their creativity and eccentricity.

They closed the show with an energetic rendition of "Gobbledigook", with members of the opening band banging away at drums and the audience clapping along. Actually the clapping ruined it for me. Audiences can not be depended on to have rhythm or keep time, especially for a song with so many time changes. It's distracting to hear the ever-quickening claps fall out of sync with the band.

I enjoyed each and every track of the set, though, until the encore. I could've done without both of those. The first one was one they'd supposedly never played live before, and featured three of them on acoustic guitars. They dedicated it to one of their crew members who was sick. The song was pretty boring. They're not the same without their sound effects. The second song was one of those ridiculously long building crescendo pieces that always annoy me for displaying the band's self-indulgence. Encores are extra, though. The rest of the show was very nice. It was most definitely worth the trip to New York to see it.

(thanks Shanie)

(also thanks to
jen lemen for the picture)

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