Sigur Ros @ Theater At MSG 2/9/06

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first post from our new concert reviewer Amrit, the man behind Village Indian, a site we stumbled upon after his Sufjan Stevens review. Since then, we’ve loved VI’s Chad VanGaalen, Doveman, and Editors write-ups and photos. He’ll be doing some exclusive reports for Stereogum, starting below with Sigur Rós. Enjoy. -Scott]

Attempting to distill the unearthly element at play when Sigur Rós take the stage is a serious undertaking. Yes, I understand that using a cello bow on a delay drenched, distorted Les Paul could elicit a desperately mournful whale-song sound; I have come to understand that a man can possess a head voice and falsetto so mind numbingly gorgeous such as to make sirens blush; and I can fully appreciate that horns and strings will transform a world class rhythm section into an absolute force of nature. But after a 14 song set on this, my third evening with Sigur Rós, I remain mystified by the artistic prowess of these four men and their songwriting.

From behind the translucent curtain separating stage from sold out Theater at MSG came a floodlight, soon followed by four thin Icelandic shadows. As pre-recorded opener “Takk” slowly faded out, bassist Georg Holm moved into the repetitive bass figure that forms the foundation of “Glosoli,” and for the next 120 minutes a spellbound crowd sat rapt in awe of Jonsi Birggison’s impassioned wail.

Sigur Rós effortlessly creates the sort of cinematic drama that bands like Coldplay futilely spend days and dollars in pursuit of, and their performance this evening was true to form. Joined on stage at times by a nine-piece brass section and a string section comprised entirely of opening act Amina, Sigur Rós moved through a set drawing heavily upon last year’s Takk and the classic Agaetis Byrjun. The only non-album song in the evening?s setlist was also the one met with the most vocal response: the live favorite “Hafsol,” which features a bass line born of 1/32nd notes tapped by a drumstick and a frenzied tempo-accelerating finale.

[Beautiful pic by Dave Vegan. Hit his site for many more.]

An unusually glib and animated Jonsi offered more than his patented “Tank yu,” as he felt compelled to explain the difficulty of counting beats through the irritating stage noise audible during the otherwise lush and glacial “Heysatan.” This moment — in conjunction with Mr. Birggison humorously fumbling with a lyric crib sheet during the Steve Zissou endorsed “Staralfor” (ironic because so few of his songs contain actual lyrics to forget) — allowed us a rare glimpse at the child-like spirit animating the band?s creative fountainhead.

During their last tour of duty, I spent two nights with Sigur Rós at the Beacon. The intimacy afforded by that room was hard to replicate in the large and impersonal Theater at MSG, due to the cavernous disconnect between stage and seat and the hall’s acoustic issues. Unfortunately, the sheer capacity of the venue was bound to draw some disrespectful fans, and they revealed themselves with a few inappropriately timed hollers and catcalls. The band soldiered on, however, and their gut wrenching performance demonstrated that no matter the variables, one would never attend a bad Sigur Rós show.

Billy Joel was playing the Stadium at MSG upstairs, and more than half the people seated in the Theater were those whom I had improperly identified as being Joel fans while in the lobby. It seems that our Icelandic brethren have become a sort of “theater”: families and couples, hipsters and seniors, mothers sisters daughters & wives, unified in admiration for a band beholden to challenging itself and its audience. And they said modern society was in a state of decay.

1. Glosoli
2. Ny Batteri
3. Saeglopur
4. Gong
5. Andvari
6. Hoppipolla
7. Meo Bloonasir
8. Se Lest
9. Olsen Olsen
10. Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa
11. Svo Hljott
12. Heysatan
13. Staralfur

Encore 1: Hafsol
Encore 2: Untitled 8 (Popplagio)

Tags: Sigur Rós