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Review: Sigur Ròs Leave Sydney In Raptures

Written By Meshell Webb on 07/31/2017

An evening with Sigur Rós is always going to be a pretty special occasion though I’d say even more so for those who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to Splendour this year or last (looking at you man with a baby strapped to him in the crowd). A sold out Hordern Pavillion hosted 5000 eager punters on Tuesday night, a few thoughts on what went down:

Lets get the bad stuff out of the way first, shall we?

No T no shade no pink lemonade buuuuut why Hordern Pavillion? An excellent venue sure and an appropriate size for a sizeable band however such an ill fit for both crowd and band alike. It’s an absolute TRAVESTY that nobody has asked the Icelandic trio to take on the hallowed halls of the Sydney Opera House. With 20+ years of musical experience under their belt and an expertly crafted live show…it continues to baffle that they haven’t been afforded the honour. Also let’s be real, Sigur Rós fans don’t like standing and there were definitely not enough seats to go round on Tuesday.

Ridin’ Solo.

After sharing precious poster space with the rest of Splendour’s stacked lineup, the band decided to forgo a support act and perform a two act show complete with intermission (a perfect amount of time to purchase wine). As a huge supporter of the supports, usually I’d be irritated at the missed opportunity for some upcoming talent to showcase to a new audience HOWEVER it is Sigur Rós we’re talking about and they brought more than enough entertainment and star power that all is easily forgiven, which brings me to the next observation.

Lights, lights, lights.

For a band that you can assume aren’t social media Desperados, they sure know how to create an Instagramable stage. Without question this was the best lighting show we’re gonna see in 2017. The lighting design was an absolute cacophony of wonder. A mesh-like backdrop projecting a myriad of moving images, pointillistic placed spotlights kept the band members glimmering and strips of LED created a cage of light which all danced together and heightened the overall drama. I suspect they were doing a damn good interpretation of the mind of any Synesthetes.

The only downside to such an incredible display was how many audience members couldn’t resist the temptation to have their phones out the entire damn time and RUIN the view for all the shorties.

Finally, the music.

Act 1 & 2 both journeyed through the peaks of Sigur Rós’s work beautifully. Never before have I struggled so much to write down song titles correctly (the language barrier is not helpful) but it didn’t matter what song the band were up to, as each new track outdid the last. An obvious highlight reel would mention Glósóli, Ekki Múkk, Sæglópur, Ísjaki, Ný Batterí and of course Festival but be honest, you’ve got no idea which songs those are without a quick reference listen either.

Vocalist Jónsi has a voice unlike any other, with a purity and bittersweet undertone that can simultaneously lift and break your heart. Faultless in pitch and jaw dropping in his captivation, I spend a majority of my time wide eyed and shaking my head in disbelief. In recent years live footage has been appearing where Jónsi’s voice begins to take on a scratchy tone during sustained notes or longer performances, something many singers fear after years of demanding vocal use but unsurprisingly it does not hinder the singer, rather add to the emotional delivery of every song.

Sigur Rós have an incredibly diverse discography behind them and sound design to boot, from tinkling toy pianos to cavernous drums: they take re-creating their studio recordings all in stride. The Hordern is filled with a rich tapestry of sound: distorted and reverb heavy bowed-guitar, crackling snares, pounding drums and delicate reversed string samples shoot out to every corner of the hall. The band are capable of a feat that MANY (and I mean many) other bands and artists aren’t, and that is executing their records without flaw.

Many accuse the trio of lacking showmanship and audience engagement due to their reserved, quiet nature on stage. Clearly those folk have never been to a Sigur Rós show. The audience stood in rapture for well over two hours with the same gleam of wonder that rested in my own eyes. A lost tradition in music is the chase to create something divine and out of this world but Sigur Rós consistently do so with ease. Naming another band that wholeheartedly encapsulate the phrase, “Music expresses that which we cannot” is almost impossible, and there lies the true magic of any Sigur Rós show.