On Saturday night, Sigur Rós brought their first tour in five years to The Paramount Theater in Seattle, WA. Now, if you don’t know the band Sigur Rós, don’t feel left out. Similar to bands like Rush and Dragon Force, this is a band that has a devout almost cult like following. In the nearly three decades of their existence, Sigur Rós has created a name for themselves as a band that, much like the their native Iceland, is remote, yet rich and complex.
They exist outside the influence of many other kinds of music. The band has created a sound that is truly very much their own; a sound that can never be duplicated. This is due in part to the combination of unique instrumentals and the distinctive vocals of Jón Thor “Jónsi” Birgisson. The mixture of sounds that give Sigur Rós their signature sound that is purely ethereal.
With the combination of the setup of the stage, the lights, and of course the musicianship, what happened Saturday night over the course of almost three and half hours was the furthest thing away from a rock concert and more of a theatrical performance. Or perhaps one could think of it as an art installation/performance. Since all of the lyrics of Sigur Rós’ songs are in their native Icelandic language, it is safe to assume that most of the audience did not understand what was being sung.
But that is ok, because the band’s performances are less about connecting to the lyrics, and more about being connected to the ambiance within each song. Starting the evening with “Vaka,” the mood was immediately created for what would be a mellow first set . A set with slow, atmospheric builds that were punctuated by Jónsi’s vocals flooding the music with passion.
With the stage full of colorful twisting string designs, orbs of glowing light, and video being shown on the back of the stage along with an almost insane amount of fog constantly pumped in, giving a feeling that you were in a foggy landscape; or perhaps the volcanic landscape of Iceland. All of this enhanced the music and the feeling conveyed to the audience. The entirety of the first set was a collection of songs showcasing the bands various keyboards.
Throughout the first set you were taken on a journey from being in a bubbly submarine environment, to being in a stormy and ominous environment with the band being portrayed in flickering black and white lights before shining white light on the audience with the sound of a soothing bass line. This was followed by a huge drum segment, which lead ultimately to one of the heaviest rocking moments of the night. Then everyone was brought back to a haunting orchestral sound. The first set ended with Jónsi and company walking off the stage with the ring of the guitar still echoing through the theater.
The second set started with the band coming out rocking harder from the first note. The first couple songs were very powerful, and had Jónsi doing his signature style of playing guitar with a bow. This set was not like what most would consider “rocking” but it did show the band could come up with the kind of music that, while on one hand was calm, on the other managed to manifest an emotional response in the audience felt by those in a packed arena at a “true” rock-n-roll concert.
Ending the night with two powerful songs, the band gave the audience a blast of lights and crashing instrumentals that bordered on insanity to conjure the feeling of walking towards a greater existence. They kept the emotions flowing until the very end for a delighted crowd who seemed transfixed on every note. They closed the show with a reminder that their style of melodic and moody music still exists.
If you’re left sitting there wondering whether or not you should go see Sigur Rós live, ask yourself this… Why not?
If you know, you know.
Photos & Review: Jared Ream