Sigur Ros

Brixton Academy, London on Fri 8th Mar 2013

All things considered, it's an interesting time for Sigur Ros to be touring, what with the departure of Kjarten Sveinsson and the promise of new material so soon after the beautiful ambience of last year's 'Valtari'. Although reduced to a three-piece band in theory, the trio take to the stage tonight with a horn section, a trio of violin players and backing singers, an extra guitarist and another percussionist. To say the least, the Brixton Academy stage is packed out as they stand before this sell-out crowd, the second of a three-night residency.

As the lights go up, the band appear behind a transparent canvas, upon which the intimidating giant shadow of lead singer Jonsi is reflected, the centrepiece to some frankly stunning visuals which accompany the frighteningly heavy new song 'Yfirborð', quickly followed by fan-favourite 'Ný Batterí', which noticeably leaves the crowd mesmerised.

Whilst the set is peppered with a few new songs which seem to hint at a heavier, more industrial sound for the band, what follows as the canvas drops is to all intents and purposes a greatest hits set. The quietest moments in the set are moments of real beauty, particularly the double-salvo of 'Sæglópur' and 'Fljótavík', both of which do real justice to the remarkable other-worldliness of Jonsi's falsetto. On record, his voice is breathtaking, but to witness him in action feels like a true privilege.

Jonsi's vocals are rightfully singled out for praise – let's be honest, there is no singer that comes even close to comparison, but nothing can be taken away from his bandmates. The sonic delivery of Georg Holm's basslines and the dynamic and at times deafening drumming of Orri Páll Dýrason come together to produce a richness of sound that see Sigur Ros towering above anybody and everybody when it comes to a live setting. A case in point is the epic 'Varúð', which, with the accompaniment of the haunting delivery of their backing singers, builds and builds into an emotional crescendo that proves to be more than enough to reduce grown men to tears. Then comes the euphoria of 'Hoppípolla', mostly known for seemingly soundtracking pretty much every single BBC documentary, which wipes away the intensity of the previous hour, with wide grins marked across the faces of not just the audience, but the band themselves.

That euphoria shows no sign of letting up with the slow build of 'Festival', which sees Jonsi yet again hit the most extraordinary of highs with his vocal delivery, at one point holding a note for what seems like well over a minute, before making way to a gloriously exhilarating outro. A different kind of ecstasy takes over with the finale of the main set, a new song called 'Brennisteinn', with lasers shooting over the audience, as the band lose themselves amidst a chaotic blend of heavy dance beats and industrial rock.

Just when it seems as though there is nowhere left to go, they return to the stage for an encore, finishing with the mind-blowing 'Popplagið', which simply has to be seen to be believed. Their new songs hint at a fascinating future for the band, but right now there can be no denying that they are the best live band around. Just how they could be knocked off their perch is impossible to say – it's one of those nights where you leave feeling as though every other band might as well just pack it all in.

article by: Craig Jones

published: 11/03/2013 12:30


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