by Christopher Byrne -
SGN Contributing Writer
The Showbox SoDo
Since the band's forming in 1994, Sigur Ros have been quietly, calmly, and swiftly sweeping the hearts of every boy and girl in the universe. Now, after five albums, a handful of world tours, a documentary film with its own world tour, and a number of other projects, Sigur Ros front man Jon "Jonsi" Por Birgisson is on the road supporting his solo debut, Go (XL Recordings).
While waiting for Jonsi to come on stage Saturday night at The Showbox SoDo, a synth line played over the house speakers - a quiet, soothing, drawn-out melody that left me feeling a little neglected, like I was hanging around in limbo.
Jonsi took a fair amount of time to approach the stage, and when he did, he offered no greeting, no "thanks for coming," he just picked up a guitar and started playing.
The performance that followed was nothing less than expected, although quite a bit strayed from the signature monolithic sound of Sigur Ros. The band eased into the set, beginning with a slow, finger-picking acoustic number called "Stars in Still Water," sung in English (also a far cry from Sigur Ros). They wasted no time, however, diving right into the posi-energetic pop anthem "Kolniour," and the hard-hitting, drum-heavy "Tornado." Mid-set, the album's single, "Go Do" really made me fall in love with Jonsi's music again, after not having listened to Sigur Ros in at least a couple of years. I think I even fell in love with life for a quick minute, but I can't be too sure.
"Around Us" was an appropriate closer, featuring Jonsi on the piano and singing harmonies with a loop of his own vocals. After a short ovation, the band came back on for an encore, Jonsi donning a very tall feathered headdress. The 15th and final song of the evening was "Grow Till Tall," a nice, mellow way to say goodnight, with a slow build that never really came to any resolve.
This show was not just about the music, though. The visual aspect of this tour is of epic proportions, designed by Jonsi and partner/Riceboy Sleeps collaborator and "Go" guitarist Alex Somers, and the London-based 59 Productions. Full of hand-drawn animation, projected images, and video, it was all at once its own artistic piece and a visible manifestation of the songs themselves. Forest scenes of birds and butterflies, wolves, owls, and deer, flowers sprouting and blooming, thousands and thousands of marching insects - these images truly brought the music to life.
As an overall experience, the performance was among the best I've seen. Whether you prefer subdued, ambient music, or vivid and incisive; whether you prefer music that conjures visions of desolate, gray ice plains or warm, sunny wildflower fields; whether you prefer English or Icelandic or fictional language; this band will satisfy all your auditory, ocular, mental, and emotional needs. And there is no language barrier here; the openly Gay Jonsi sings like a fucking angel, and he'll make all your fantasies of woodland creatures and the like become totally real.
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