Monday, April 1st, 2013
Sigur Rós at The Air Canada Centre in Toronto
Frank YangEven though Sigur Rós’ show at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night was announced back in November, I was on the fence about attending, rationalizing that I had seen them twice just last August, and as much as I enjoyed the atmospheric charms of last year’s Valtari, I didn’t know that I needed to see it live again. Then word came that not only would the staging of the show be different this time, thanks to the shift in venue from outdoor festival settings to indoor arenas, but rather than a second tour for Valtari it would be an advance tour for their next record Kveikur – out June 18 – well then, it was a no-brainer. And really, saying you’ve had too enough Sigur Rós is like saying you’ve had enough beauty or enough wonder. It’s nonsense.
As they did at Massey Hall way back in May 2006, the band began their show hidden behind a scrim, performing in front of the well-filled if not sold-out, theatre-configured arena as a set of silhouettes seemingly backlit by the aurora borealis. At the climax of “Ný Batterí”, the scrim fell away and the eleven-piece band, camped out in a forest of musical and lighting gear, was revealed. The elegantly simple incandescent light bulb stands were a holdover from the Valtari tour, but the screens which surrounded the band on four sides to create an artificial intimacy on the big outdoor stages was exchanged for a wide, parabolic screen stretching across the width of the stage, simulating a wide expanse in an enclosed room.
It was on that screen that the band’s always-inspired visuals played out, seemingly tuned to evoke the more visceral nature of the new material, balancing out the air-and-water atmospherics of Valtari with a more fire-and-earth elemental skew. That said, the only representative in the set from the last record – “Varúð” – was the most visually stunning, with the soft glow of the stage bulbs blending with the Will-o’-the-wisp images floating on screen to create a genuine sense of weightlessness – no mean feat in a hockey arena. And while the arena setting was not the best for intimacy – the days of the band playing Massey Hall will be fondly remembered but are clearly over – the sound was immaculate and the scale lent itself nicely towards enhancing the grandeur of Orri Páll Dýrason’s drums.
Other back catalog highlights were “Hoppípolla”, as always, with the crescendo including an invitation from the band to the audience to stand and clap along, and “Festival” which featured Jónsi holding a single high note for so long that, while it almost had to be electronically-assisted, you still wanted to believe was magic. The Kveikur material was well-highlighted, with new songs bookending the main set; “Yfirborð” opened and the appropriately-titled new single “Brennisteinn” (“brimstone” in Icelandic) closed things on an apocalyptic note, with “Hrafntinna” and “Kveikur” lurking amongst the old favourites like wolves in the fold, more than making good on their promise of a more “direct, aggressive” sound – if the sub-genre “orch-industrial” didn’t exist before, it may well now.
One wonders if this stylistic shift was related to the departure of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson and the remaining three embracing their new existence as a power trio, or if it was just the logical reaction to making Valtari. Ironically, though the official band was now the smallest its ever been, the touring lineup was operating as more of a grand ensemble than ever before, the horns and strings buoying the proceedings. That said, it wasn’t flawless; there were a few missed cues and off-beats – nothing major and hardly a black mark on the show, but surprising for a band that was always so impeccably tight on stage.
Following the ninety-minute main set, the band returned for a two-song encore and affirmed that, for all the dramatically show-stopping and breathtaking moments in their catalog, “Popplagið” from () remains the best and only way to conclude a show. I think they’ve gone to it every one of the seven times now I’ve seen them perform, and yet this reading may have been the post powerful one yet. Maybe it was because of the staging, the lighting, the headspace, or the simple fact that they’re still letting this decade-old composition evolve and grow. In any case it was still the perfect way to end the night and a not-so-gentle reminder that there’s no such thing as enough beauty or wonder.
Photos: Sigur Rós @ The Air Canada Centre – March 30, 2013
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Gobbledigook”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Hoppípolla”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Popplagið”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Staralfur”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Svefn-G-Englar”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Nýja lagið”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Brennisteinn”
Video: Sigur Rós / Leaning Towards Solace
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð” (version three)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Valtari”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varðeldur” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Fjögur Píanó” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Dauðalogn” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ekki Múkk” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós / Seraph
Video: Sigur Rós – “Dauðalogn” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varðeldur” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ég anda” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Rembihnútur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Fjögur Píanó” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ég anda” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ekki Múkk” (moving art)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Við Spilum Endalaust “
Video: Sigur Rós – “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Gobbledigook”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Sæglópur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Hoppípolla”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Glósóli”
Video: Sigur Rós – “(Vaka)”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Viðrar vel til loftárása”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Svefn-G-Englar”
NPR has premiered the latest video from Efterklang’s Piramida, and Oregon Music News has an interview with frontman Casper Clausen. And while I’m glad for Clausen that his health has recovered, that Toronto was the one and only canceled date on their now-concluded North American tour elicits a big sigh over here.
Video: Efterklang – “The Ghost”
Interview talks to Iceage, in town for a couple shows at NXNE on June 15 and 16. That tour will be alongside fellow Danish punks Lower, and Exclaim reports that the side-project of the two bands – Vår – will release their debut album No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers on May 14.
Video: Vår – “In Your Arms”
Finally, Drowned In Sound talks to Johan Angergård about Labrador Records on the occasion of the Swede-pop label’s fifteenth anniversary with additional comments from Philip Ekström of The Mary Onettes and Johan Duncanson of The Radio Dept., the latter of which aren’t especially celebratory.