October 6, 2016

Sigur Rós played Radio City

It's been over three years since Sigur Rós released a new album, but that has in no way hindered the band's live presence or made this tour feel like a retread. Instead, it's reaffirmed the Icelandic post-rock icons as masters of their craft.

Assembled in their core, now a trio, the band executed with sheer brilliance and power without the help of a string section or other orchestrations. The stage was dressed in stark steel beams that were erected in a cage-like manner with screens that surrounded the band to provide an extra layer of sparkle in what would become a mind-altering performance. While other post-rock bands can exert cinematic tones, Sigur Rós create anthems which sound as if they're summoning the titans for battle. Slowly building tension before releasing in an epic climax, the band use their technique to draw out the experience of the listener, allowing time to sink in as an extra effect. On stage, it's like watching magic. Steel beams turned into cubes and prisms of light that could make Daft Punk jealous. Each song seemed to somehow outshine the previous as dark reds, intense blues, and shimmering golds shown over the stage and through the cavernous Radio City. Heavy fog billowed into the crowd as Jonsi bowed his guitar with intense vigor, it seems inhuman that the sounds conjured onstage were somehow the work of these three men alone. Following a brief intermission, the men reemerged onstage and the second half of the show was pure spectacle. Jonsi's voice was impeccable, reaching staggering heights and holding falsettos that seemed to last for all of eternity. Celestial lights dazzled and engulfed the band, giving a new sense of depth and wonder to already breathtaking sonic landscapes. While it has been joked that the band can at times be almost too mellow, music made for naps, this tour has seen them hit hard with dynamic drumming and skyrocketing volumes. "Kveikur" was transformed into a metal masterpiece in this setting with a cacophony of distorted, screeching guitars and drums echoing the sound of impending doom. For a band from Iceland that sings in mostly gibberish, it is rather astounding at how popular they have become in America. Their music feels more in line with scoring a National Geographic documentary or Planet Earth, or the soundtrack to an alien universe, not something that shakes a building to it's core. From certain aspects, their visuals looked like something you'd find in the upside down with the Demogorgon or an intergalactic spacecraft that was orbiting over the stage, not something that would bring people to their feet in rapturous applause. As the night carried on, everything seemed to escalate. The cheers for old favorites supplied a sense of unity and passion and the string of "Starálfur" -> "Sæglópur" -> "Ný Batterí" -> "Vaka" was tear jerking. This isn't music that calls for mighty sing-a-longs, but rather it evokes emotions from deep within one's soul. It can take control of one's mentality and not let go, searching for lost thoughts and feelings from times long ago. Seeing this all unfold in an icon location was merely icing on the cake. Despite the fact that this is not a tour promoting new music, this was not a greatest hits tour that saw a band playing simply to cash in on old favorites. This was Sigur Rós pushing their songs to new heights and exploring the limits of the band. Luckily, they've let us all be a part of the experience.

Set list:

01 "Á"
02 "Ekki Múkk"
03 "Samskeyti"
04 "E-Bow"
05 "Dauðalagið"
06 "Glósóli"
07 "Smáskifa"
08 "Ovedur"
09 "Starálfur"
10 "Sæglópur"
11 "Ný Batterí"
12 "Vaka"
13 "Festival"
14 "Kveikur"
15 "Fljótavík"
16 "Popplagið"

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