Monday, September 22, 2008

Sigur Rós Play Packed Uptown NYC Venue, 9.18.08

Sigur Rós isn't the type of band that fits any particular labels. The music features elements of post-rock, shoegaze, and even classical sounds. Frontman Jónsi Birgisson — known for his powerful falsetto — tends to sing a number of the songs in a made-up language of sorts, "Hopelandic," in addition to singing in the band's native Icelandic. And yet, while one wouldn't expect the band to have much widespread success due to its not-so-mainstream sound, the members of Sigur Rós have a remarkable ability to draw diverse crowds to their shows. Thursday night was a perfect example, as fans flocked far uptown to New York's United Palace Theatre, for a mesmerizing performance.

Sigur Rós performed for approximately two hours, choosing to play songs featured on a variety of their albums, ranging from their 1999 album Ágætis byrjun to their latest release. Even though the majority of people in attendance — myself included — couldn't really understand the lyrics, many cheered excitedly at the beginning of each song in a show of recognition. Lights and video projections flooded the stage, contributing to the otherworldly atmosphere evoked by the band's moody music. Even though Sigur Rós performed as a four-piece that night, unaccompanied by the string and horn players that have often toured with them in the past, their songs were as richly textured as their studio recordings and seemed to mesmerize the audience. Birgisson's vocals were equally powerful, bursting through the venue as he played his bowed guitar vigorously.

While the band members gave their all throughout the concert, some of the show's greatest moments took place at the end of the night. The band concluded the main part of its set with the upbeat "Gobbledigook," the first track on their latest album, with Birgisson asking the audience to stand up, sing and clap along to the music. Members of opening act, Parachutes, also took the stage with additional drums to keep the beat, as rainbow colored lights flashed through the venue. The packed venue was filled with clapping audience members and confetti flew through the air as the song built up to its triumphant climax. By the time the song was over, both Sigur Rós and the audience seemed exhilarated, with smiles all around.

Sigur Rós ended the night on an even more incredible note, with a two-song encore. Birgisson dedicated the first song, "Illgresi," one of the band's more minimalist tunes, to one of their crew members who couldn't be at the show because he had pneumonia. And then the band chose to kick things up a notch with "Track 8," also known as "Popplagid" or "The Pop Song," which started out gently and ended with a shattering climax that had people screaming for more by the time the band left the stage.

Sigur Rós only took the stage one more time to thank the audience and bow graciously — but judging by the applause and the subsequent excited chatter as the crowd made its way to the subway after the show, the band had clearly made quite an impression, showing that even the "strangest" of music can have a strong effect on listeners.