Two months' anticipation paid off in full last Thursday night when Icelandic band, Sigur Ros, finished a thrilling concert at the Pageant in St. Louis, leaving the audience in a state of amazement as they tried to pick their jaws up off the floor. After listening to Sigur Ros’ albums (especially Agaetis Byrjun), and hearing the heavy electronic influence, it's easy to assume that they are an exceptional studio band, but wouldn’t put on much of a live show. I'm ashamed that this thought ever crossed my mind.
Touring to promote their new album, ( ), the band performed almost flawlessly with excellent accompaniment from Amina, their on-tour string section. This was not a head-banging-mosh-pit kind of concert; most people sat quietly in their chairs as they stared at the stage, mesmerized by the music. Each song grew and grew for expanses of time running on as long as ten minutes, until it became so intense one could hardly stand it. Finally, it would wind down and end, leaving their fans feeling numb and wishing that song could have gone on forever. Then, fortunately, the next song would begin, and new life was breathed in again, as the audience prepared for the next twelve-minute odyssey to come.
Highlights from the show (if you can choose from among the dozens) would have to include "Samskeyeti" (track 3 from ( )), Hafssól, Ný Batterí, and Poppalagid (track 8 from ( )). Samskeyeti featured all four of the band members huddled around the station of keyboards and synthesizers, like surgeons around the operating table, as the song crescendoed to its amazing peak. Hafssól, the song on which bassist Georg Holm uses a drumstick on his bass guitar in a snare drum-like fashion, and one of many songs on which guitarist/singer Jón þor Birgisson uses a cello bow to play his guitar, swelled up to the point where Holm and Birgisson were simply pounding their instruments with drumstick and bow in an explosion of noise that somehow sounded excellent. Two thirds of the way through Ný Batterí, drummer Orri Páll Dýrason finally let loose, and nearly shook the building with a rush of drum and cymbal. No one could hear themself think, and boy did they love it. Sigur Ros ended their set with an amazing rendition of "Poppalagid." Those who know their most recent album know that track 8 stands out, but to hear it live, they will love it even more--guaranteed. The song culminated to the climax of the evening, blasting the ears with music so intense it left everyone energized for hours to come.
When Sigur Ros had finished, the group calmly gathered for a bow, and then left the stage. Applause went on for quite a while, but only to the avail of one more group bow. (This was actually the first time the band had even addressed the crowd; they were all business on stage.) Eventually we squeezed out through the mob of college students wearing ski hats (a favorite among the members of Sigur Ros), and thus ended that amazing evening. If you ever get the chance to see Sigur Ros in concert, you won’t regret it. It’s 20 bucks well spent.
Photo by John Mahoney