It was a beautiful show, the kind that briefly transports you out of the place you’re in and takes you somewhere else like a dream. Sigur Ros played at the Roseland last week, and the Icelanders brought a crowd, packing the venue with fans of music with lyrics in “Hopelandic,” a made-up language.
Sigur Ros played a song where the bassist tapped the drumstick against the bass, creating a rolling sound that was accompanied by cymbals and then the electric guitar. Lead singer and guitarist Jonsi played his guitar with a bow rather then a pick throughout the show, his figure slightly hunched as he pulled the bow back and forth, creating a messy electronic sound he knew how to use and control. Then drums entered the layers of sound, played loud and hard, adding an element of rhythm and definition to something that sounds almost out of control.
I tried to remember what song they were playing and realized I didn’t know. I listen to their album Takk-straight through, never skipping a song. The music becomes one long listening experience, and at their show it’s the same. It’s less about what they’re playing but how they’re playing it. At times you forget their music contains vocals, because it really is as if the music has no lyrics. The created language Jonsi sings in is just another instrument, another layer of sound. It’s not about what he’s saying, it’s about how it sounds. At times Jonsi sang with his eyes closed and hands clenched, the lights shining on him. He looked like a choirboy singing his heart out.
Sigur Ros didn’t speak to the audience, but there was no feeling of audience/band separation. At one point during the show Jonsi sang a high note as people in the audience held their breath until they couldn’t take it anymore. Someone later threw a rose at him. He flinched in surprise and then smiled.
A screen hung on the back wall of the stage played slow motion footage of children jumping, a perfect accompaniment to Jonsi’s almost childlike voice, and their music that sound hopeful, innocent and old at the same time.
After the last song they all quietly left the stage. The audience began to slowly clap, then faster and louder. As the audience waited for an encore lights projected birds onto the screen at the back of the stage. One landed on a ledge. More began to land. And then they flew away, and as they flew away Sigur Ros walked back onto the stage. The screen lowered over the front of the stage, adding a visual grand finale. The audience watched them through the screen while lights projected onto it created a pattern that looked like leaves. Sigur Ros’ shadows were large but unmenacing. There was a moment during the show where they all froze on stage, where any noise would have sounded like an interruption. They were still, unbelievably still, and you didn’t want the silence to be broken. Those moments aren’t made too often.