Review: Sigur Rós

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Sigur Rós at the Brighton Centre, 20/11/13

Arriving at the Brighton Centre is like arriving at an airport. Clinical, huge, nothing humble nor personal about the place.

Swedish act I Break Horses were the support act, and played through a half-hour set hidden behind the giant see-through curtain that’s been put in front of the stage at all of Sigur Rós’ shows this year. The effect was oddly impersonal but also engaging at the same time for an already enigmatic act such as I Break Horses. It was a lovely blend of dream pop and shoegaze, full of swelling synths and huge drum-machine beats. Maria Lindén’s vocals were a little obscured by the huge sounds of the drum beats, a better balance might have been needed to showcase her breathy beautiful vocals.

Soon after Sigur Rós took to the stage, with still a giant curtain in front of them, and I was afraid it would be like that for the whole show. Seeing them perform behind the curtain (with visuals projected in front of the curtain and on the screen behind the band) was a strange experience. It was like gazing into another world, or looking in on somebody’s life without them knowing. However the most emotional moment for me came when they performed ‘Vaka’. The original scenes from the music video of children running into a barren, nuclear-torn land with gas masks on, gets me every time. The band hidden behind that curtain makes the audience feel even more powerless, as if whatever happens inside is independent from the outside.
However three songs in, the curtain dropped, and the audience could finally experience the full-extent of the band. That act created a huge shift in dynamic, for one thing Jónsi finally spoke to us (albeit briefly)! He looked at the audience and we looked at him, and from that knowledge of presence, Sigur Rós broke into louder more rock-driven songs from their new album Kveikur.
Despite a focus on the new album, Sigur Rós also made sure to play on their past, with amazing renditions of songs such as ‘Sæglópur‘ and ‘Hoppípolla‘. No one can deny that Jónsi’s bowing is the far more impressive version of rock ‘n’ roll solo-ing. His plays on just pure feedback noise, to amazing melody lines is what makes him such a pleasure to watch. I was also blown away by Jónsi’s voice. In the recordings I never paid attention to the strength and eccentricity of such a voice, but hearing it live made me realise how it is such a huge part of Sigur Rós’ sound; a pure joy to listen to.

The whole show was extremely well-executed, from the amazing visuals to lighting, and that made up for the impersonality that can sometimes be felt in large venues AND with introspective bands.

[Helen Brown]

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