Sigur Rós at the Orpheum
It's been said thousands of times in thousands of different ways that great music takes you places. At the Sigur Rós concert last night, my body may have been seated inside the Orpheum Theater but my mind was off frolicking in an alternate universe, dancing in the crystalline rivers of lead singer Jónsi Birgisson's beautiful voice.
Birgisson was bigger than I expected. Having only heard Sigur Rós on record, I had always pictured someone small and sprightly delivering the unwavering vocal melodies, but Birgisson towered over his guitar, his large frame dwarfing his instrument. Dressed in a black military jacket, he sung with a sad, serious expression, making him look more like a Viking enduring battle rather than a man fronting an Icelandic post-rock band.
The show got off to a slow start, as the band worked through some of their older, significantly more epic songs before moving into the poppier and upbeat material on their latest album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. It took a handful of songs for the band to fall into a good rhythm, but once they found their groove the show ramped up from its initial performance of a mixture of ambient soundscapes to something much more intense and enthralling.
One of my favorite moments of the show came during one of the band's signature nothing-to-everything builds, when the normal stage lights dropped out and spotlights flashed from behind the band as Birgisson violently strummed his guitar with a cellist's bow. It was a jaw-dropping moment and a turning point in the performance, and I began to sense that the show was following one giant narrative arc that would continue to build in intensity until the final song. Sigur Rós are masterful with their dynamics, and spent the evening yo-yoing between soft, fragile moments and heavy, guitar-driven climaxes, with each extreme becoming more and more pronounced. At one point, the band fell into silence mid-song and the entire room held still, the sound of the air conditioning creating the only noise, while at another point the lights and sounds were so overwhelming that all I could do was shake my head in awe.
When I thought I had endured all of the emotional pogo-ing that I could stand, the band ramped up into a grand finale on "Gobbledigook," inviting members of opening band Parachutes to bang drums while the audience jumped to their feet and clapped along. In a surreal moment, several other members of Parachutes ran to the edge of the stage and shot giant cannons of confetti into the crowd, and the entire room laughed and cheered and clapped in unison.
The band returned for a three-song finale, with each song being met by louder and louder cheers from the audience, and after a two-hour performance the quartet took a bow to thundering applause and a second standing ovation.