There are few bands as aurally mesmerising as veteran Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós, and with their newest light show and stage set, there are now few bands with such engrossing visuals. Skeletal pylons imply false perspective or a vanishing point behind the stage, and a screen partitions it in two, with projections across it as the band play either in front or behind it.
Playing the second night of a threenight residency, the band are performing to what are for them intimate crowds. Although they’ve been a three-piece since the departure of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson in 2013, they’ve usually toured with an expanded line-up. However, for these shows the band are on their own, and the sparse set up makes for a completely different feel.
Famous for singing in an imagined dialect of Icelandic, dubbed ‘Hopelandic’, on some tracks, as well as for playing the guitar using a cello bow, their frontman Jónsi Birgisson leads the band through a set that takes in not only their more commercial material like Festival and Glósóli, but also sinister fare like the title track from Kveikur, arguably the darkest and bravest record in their discography.
Of the new tracks, latest single Óveður is the easiest to get a handle on, though it’s a more angular, electronic tune
that suggests an even more dramatic stylistic departure awaits on the band’s upcoming album. By contrast, Niður and Varða suggest a return to the strippedback version of the band at their mid2000s commercial peak.
though the band are relatively sedate on stage, there are moments of drama – Jónsi hurls his cello bow away during one climax, and his face contorts on multiple occasions as he holds acrobatically high falsetto notes.
the set peaks as they crash into the climax of Popplagið, also known as untitled 8. Jónsi flings himself across the stage and smashes the headstock of his upturned guitar against the floor, provoking howls of feedback.
to some consternation from a seated audience, he moves to the front of the stage and kicks several lights off the edge. He then knocks over both guitar cabs behind him, with a crash. It’s a fittingly dramatic end to a squalling set that provokes a standing ovation from the crowd.
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