Still no Triangulation? Nope… It’ll be here next, promise! Instead I’ve ‘fast-tracked’ the Sigur Ros concert review while it’s still fresh in my memory (seven days ago is hardly fresh or fast-tracked I admit, but you know how slow I am most of the time.) I am biased, and it is going to be full of superlatives, but I don’t care.

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Sigur Ros, live at the O2 Brixton Academy, London, March 7th 2013.

Bow Meets Guitar.

Bow Meets Guitar.

First of all the venue. Brixton Academy is still pretty much like I very vaguely remember it from 1988, the area for the audience sloping down to meet the stage, surrounded by once grandiose theatrical trappings. It’s an excellent environment to witness live music and was acoustically spot on. If I wanted to be critical, I’d say the facilities were a bit poor. The bars were plentiful but slow, not like the slick alcohol-conveyer-belts at some venues, and the conveniences were only convenient if you liked to spend a long time standing in a queue. I guess that it’s difficult for the venue to overcome these issues as it’s situated in an old building with little scope for adaptation, so I think it should be excused anyway!

Support was provided by a solo artist under the name of Blanck Mass. Sadly his brand of ambient electronica was lost amongst the hubbub of an expectant crowd and probably suited to a smaller, more discerning audience in a smaller space. As a spectacle he was equally overwhelmed, a lone man manipulating a bank of laptops and other electronic gizmos in the centre of a huge shrouded stage. The music itself was haunting and organic, often amorphous, occasionally driven by a deep beat. He was good, but I don’t think he was the most appropriate support act for the occasion.

How do I review Sigur Ros? I felt like I was in my own little world for just over an hour and a half, or maybe in the band’s little world, though I guess that’s where everybody else in the audience was too, rapt by the beauty being created on the stage. It’s pretty much a given nowadays that a big live show will have a spectacular visual element, and Sigur Ros didn’t disappoint in that department.  Lights and projections dancing on a screen behind the stage as well as a gauze in front of it were accompanied by an array of light bulbs on stands strewn across the stage. At times, it was difficult to pick out just how many people were performing on the stage such was the visual spectacle, and bearing in mind that the band are officially three in number, it made it even more difficult.

Let there be light...

Let there be light…

The real beauty was in the music however. At certain points in the show I had my eyes closed just so I could focus fully on the sound, almost as if the lights were a distraction. Jonsi, the singer and front man of the band, has a remarkably stunning voice, and it was a wonderful experience to hear it live. It sounded just as good, if not better, than his voice on recordings, just underlying his genuine vocal talent. The instrumentation was equally gorgeous, and goes some way to explaining why there were considerably more than just the three people on stage. A string trio and a brass trio slipped into and out of the tracks, as well as a number of other people playing various instruments at any given time. At one point there were two drummers, then there would be at least three guitarists, and there was a divine moment  when two of the band members were playing xylophones while the third played the piano. If the visuals were overwhelming, the sounds were positively entrancing.

It’s always a worry that if you’re going to see a band that have been around a long time (Sigur Ros started in the late 1990s) they’re going to either focus on their new material, or just play the older crowd-pleasers, but they set their stall out early with the first three tracks going from 2013 to 2007 to 1999, and the rest of the show panned out with them playing between one and four tracks from each of their major releases, and another two new pieces. Something for everyone! With each new song came a musicians musical chairs for who would be playing what instrument next, and each set of opening bars cast a ripple of appreciation or expectation through the captivated audience.

It’s hard to describe the sound of Sigur Ros (it’s hard to describe accurately the sound of any music without certain frames of reference…) but I guess there are elements of pop, rock, classical, modern and traditional folk, ambient, and probably a few other bits too. All pulled together, it’s incredibly powerful, haunting, sweet, and emotional. Occasionally they’re loud, like you’re standing at the bottom of a huge waterfall, but more often they’re quiet and reflective, like you’re lying in a meadow or watching gentle waves rolling onto the shore. Oops, I went all poetic there, listening to Sigur Ros can have that effect on you 🙂

Everything's gone green...

Everything’s gone green…

One friend has since compared the concert to an almost religious experience on more than one occasion. Another friend repeatedly uses the word ‘awe’ when referring to it. I felt both. It wasn’t like going to see a band playing some songs on a stage, it was an experience, ninety minutes of being hypnotised, absorbed and embraced, individually and collectively. It’s worth bearing in mind that Sigur Ros don’t sing any songs in English, there is no understanding to be gained from the lyrics, nor any opportunity to sing along (like most people would be able to sing like that anyway) so the appreciation of the music is on a more primal, pure level. They create beauty, emotion and drama without the need for words, and they do it perfectly. It’s more than just music, it’s art.

Mutual appreciation. I count eleven people there, but I swear there were more.

Mutual appreciation. I count eleven people there, but I swear there were more.

Told you I’d get carried away…

Credit goes to someone called Elly (@Ellyhssop) for the first two photos who kindly shared them on twitter, the other two grainy ones are mine. When written, Sigur Ros should have an inflection over the letter ‘o’, but due to my rubbish computer skills, I’ve been unable to type it correctly (I could do it on my phone though.) Included below is a track list (also courtesy of @Ellyhssop) for anyone who is interested. As far as I know, those funny looking letter d’s with a line through are pronounced ‘th’ if that’s any help.

Make a playlist, get high, close your eyes, and imagine you're there...

Make a playlist, get high, close your eyes, and imagine you’re there…

In summary, and pardon my language, Sigur Ros were fucking awesome! 🙂

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OK, definitely Triangulation 2 next, then I’m having a break (it’ll be hard to tell the difference) as I have something ‘special’ to do. Watch this space…

Until next time… ses x