We waited; drowning in the heat of summer’s sun beating down and lounging on the brittle sidewalk, we all waited. It had been four years since the release of Sigur Ros’s last album and, thus, some time since a proper tour and two years since they played their last show. As that was the case, how could one not spare a few hours of waiting to be in the perfect position for the very show we all so patiently anticipated?
Sigur Ros had been on hiatus for a substantial period of time preceding their 2012 release, Valtari. It wasn’t that the band had grown tiresome of writing and performing with each other, they just needed a break. To be exact, life happened. Children arrived, new outlets were experimented with and to force an album or tour would make for a contrived and artificial product. Valtari, due to this time apart, yielded a more organic and necessary set of songs. Though the album certainly wasn’t their best, it was still somewhat of a marvel. It felt conclusive in a somber sense, doused in finality and relief, though this may not be the case.
When the doors had opened, everyone spilled in and filled the theater to its crevices. Even though the opening act was an hour away, the excitement was palpable and teeming through the air. Unfortunately, the relief we received through the opener was drab. Julia Holter was lethargic and boring. Her sound was simplistic to the point of a mutual tedium and no one in her band seemed remotely excited to be performing her songs. The whole 45 minute set felt more like a trial or tribulation than a warm up. Consequently, it was difficult to tell whether her lack of energy transferred to the crowd or that our lack of enthusiasm towards her music left her dull and unenthused. Though she seemed gracious for the chance to open for a band with such renown and an extremely positive reputation, she couldn’t do much with it. As someone in my proximity stated, it was not unlike massage music, and it’s hard not to agree; it was passive and sedative. Rarely ever does such a sound translate well to the stage and this was a perfect example.
It had been a long afternoon and it had stretched into the night. By now the murmur had become resounding and reverberated through the walls. Very little time stood between the crowd and the show many had been waiting years for the chance to see. Around 9 o’clock, the lights dimmed. The room was in an eerie black for a moment before erupting in applause.
Sigur Ros has a long, complicated discography. In 1997, Von was released followed by the aptly named Agaetis Byrjun (meaning “a good beginning”) in 1999. From there came the parentheses album in 2002, Takk in 2005 and Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust in 2008. In 2007, a collection of B-sides and live songs, Hvarf/Heim, was released. All of this was joined by the Rimur EP and the Hlemmur soundtrack. As a result, the band had a wide array of songs and sounds to choose from when constructing the set-list. Drawing inspiration from Valtari, they chose an amalgamation of songs that were more mellow, avoiding most of their energetic ones.
Each song felt as natural as a heartbeat but as unique and intricate as an entire living being. No matter what someone felt in the moments leading towards that show, it faded to make room for bewilderment and awe. The only word that seems best fitting for such a concert is cinematic. As such, the show was nearly impeccable. A few moments were felt too mellow and some mixing on Hoppipolla was not perfect, but it was hardly relevant after the two-hour spectacle.
Perhaps most rewarding was the emphasis on visuals. People who have seen the band or their live films know that there is an emphasis on the stage and set itself. Three large screens adorned the surrounding walls and flickering bulbs were placed sporadically around the stage. Every single moment was matched with an equally thoughtful reciprocation of visual interpretation.
The show was thorough and never fell short of astounding. Of the nine performers on stage, not one looked unfocused, almost as if they had a mutual intensity. By the end, the wait had been consumed by an overwhelming pleasure. August 8th was a hot summer day, and as the evening cooled the earth, a few thousand people re-entered the streets and brought a warmer heat between them. None of them came with disappointment.
Photos © Sigur Rós Instagram – http://instagram.com/p/OKYoQvIcVm/