Photo Not from same show
Sigur Ros - Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Monday October 6th, 2008


It's so nice when things exceed expectations--especially unfairly high ones. But Monday night, Sigur Ros most certainly did. Everything was so big and surreal, or maybe even unreal.

Actually, let's stake it down at ethereal. Top to bottom the performance was phenomenal, but there are a few images and moments, almost cinematic in scope, which stand out in my mind.

There was the moment of soft, lush, almost campfire-like reserve, where all four band members crowded together around the keyboards and vibraphone, leaving their posts of guitar, drums and bass. The stage lights dimmed and around them a number of sound-sensitive, candle looking lights danced, washing in and back out to darkness in the swelling waves of sound.

There was the spacey moment, where a light bounced between a number of glowing glowing orbs hung behind the band.

Then in closing (pre-encore) the band, along with help from openers Parachutes, who banged the shit out of a number of big drums, tore through the effervescent "Gobbldigook" as confetti cannons fired tiny particles high into the Schnitz's relatively open air.

The visuals here were important, but make no mistake they would mean nothing without the masterfully executed score. The set began with the haunting "Svefn-g-englar" from 1999's Agetis byrjun, featured a few more from that era, delved into most every point in between, and included a number from the band's latest Med Sud. "inni mer syngur vitleysingur" and "festival" were especially taught bursts of life and adrenaline. In the live setting Sigur Ros were every bit as pensive and deliberate as on record. Their restraint is marvelous.

So is singer Jonsi Birgisson's falsetto. Birgisson owns the precision of an opera singer. He held notes for impossibly long intervals, and frankly, was just perfect. Equally staggering was Birgisson's working masterful guitar and bow work. Together Sigur Ros matched the tone, pitch and emotional swell of the most controlled studio setting.

Normally I decry carbon-copy performances but there was something special, almost divine, in the experience of having these gigantic masterpieces grown--or shall we say peaks scaled--before you. It's not like a pop song. There's so much happening here. Amazing all that sound came from just four guys.

Their aural perfectionism, I suspect, is part of the reason Sigur Rós plays in theaters--they are allowed so much more control in a room truly acoustically tuned. But there's more to it: the space. The Schnitz is delicate, ornate, baroque and beautiful--an architectural musical match. The only better place would be outside.

But the thought of being in a club for such grand, spacious music is just wrong. At some point, lost deeply, I leaned back and looked. God, 100ft or more. Open, arching air for the music to swirl in. Jesus, looking up into a club ceiling would simply not have worked.

Everything was simply stunning: the elfish, alien accouterments worn by Birgisson, the pace, the highs, the lights, the sets, video and the drummers cobbled crown, the stunning sound. All of it. A masterfully unique, thrilling experience.