A certain tension ripples through the SEC Armadillo audience. Ethereal music plays quietly in an attempt to stimulate the crowd further before the modest entrance of Sigur Rós. As Icelandic natives producing music quite unlike anything one would have heard before, the amount of transcendental and surreal “noise” generated by only three musicians throughout the course of the night is simply astonishing.
Creating this ambient sound through a plethora of instruments (including electric guitars, a bowed guitar, a bass guitar, keyboards, drums, and a glockenspiel, as well as other percussion), the band members Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson, Georg “Goggi” Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason are nothing short of instrumental geniuses. Birgisson’s exceptional falsetto vocals are spellbinding, navigating the audience through untold lands of singing. His performance is so enthralling, at points the audience are unsure as to when to clap; such is the extent to which they are under his control. Yet this control is what sets Sigur Rós so definitively apart from the conventional band. There is a thin yet precise balance of energy constructed between the audience and the band – a very deliberate tension. One would normally remark on crowd interaction between songs, yet this sort of performance does not call for such interplay. In fact, it almost rejects it in fear of losing that balance.
The control in the band’s own performance is also remarkable. At points, Dýrason seems almost angry with his drum kit as he superbly thrashes through the mid-section of the set list. However, this sight epitomises the band: an extremely expressive, emotive sound atop very well-constructed and disciplined scorings.
The staging is perfectly elaborate, giving way to an artistic assault of lighting and video displays to accompany the sound. The scenography traverses from graphic illustrations to 3D renderings of natural landscapes, immersive in their projection. The music created lends itself to this sort of spectacle. Even the spotlight supports don’t look out of place within the staging; at times they create shadows to what looks like a skeletal pine forest, at others they light up themselves to create futuristic, dimensional gridwork surrounding the band members, akin to images from Tron.
The uniqueness of Sigur Rós is something unparalleled. It seems crude, almost blasphemous, to say they could be related to the sound of Radiohead – whom seem mainstream in comparison. But this forces the matter and would be better left as seeing the trio adopting their own musical language. Beautifully bewildering, seeing them is not just a concert. It’s not even a performance. Seeing Sigur Rós is an experience – one you must have whenever the chance arises.