Sigur Rós

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author LL date 07/10/17 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

In celebration of it being 20 years ago that their debut album "Von" came out in 1997, Sigur Rós have been touring with a two-set, career-spanning show under the formal title of "An Evening with Sigur Rós". Tonight it is Copenhagen's turn to witness this magical show and regrettably to me, it is not a seated experience for us as it has been at some other venues of this same tour. The slowly building and emotional music should have no problem filling out the big space that is Forum but I have been increasingly anxious in the weeks leading up to this for the show's sound quality as my friends have been smirking sadly and shaking their heads when I have mentioned where Sigur Rós were to be playing. Entering the venue about half an hour before the announced start, there's a steady stream of people going in the doors but five minutes before, the venue still seems no more than half full, many people apparently showing up during the band's first set, perhaps not aware of the lack of support or the structure of the two sets which is a bit of a shame.

All pictures by Peter Troest

Sigur Rós

As mentioned, the show consists of two sets, both of about an hour in length, but the concert stretches out both before and after the sets with ambient music streaming from the speakers. As the lights are dimmed, the three band members come on stage and take their places and begin to play into the ambient sound. They ease us in with a relatively calm new unreleased track dubbed "Á" and slowly build up an atmosphere with "Ekki Múkk" before culminating in the evening's first loud moment with the ending of the amazing "Glósoli". By then, it is obvious that there is no need to worry too much about sound quality and venue size as everything bursts from the speakers with a firmness that carries both the serene and loudly intense moments to us in equally convincing fashion, although it is not totally perfect. Apart from "Á", we are treated to two other new songs towards the end of the first set where especially the one dubbed "Niður" makes a great impression.

It is almost impossible to write about the music of Sigur Rós without thinking of analogies to their native landscapes of Iceland communicating just vast space and immense natural forces. Several of their song titles refer to specific places, their family members or just plain nature, such as 'lost at sea' or 'glowing sun', and it all gives their already extremely communicative soundscapes a sense of even deeper meaningfulness and warmth. Their first record, "Von" meaning 'hope', is not present on the setlist tonight but its title hits the nail on the head concerning the underlying common feeling that all of their songs share. Even as we are taken through almost desperately melancholic moments tonight, hope is never lost in the sounds of Sigur Rós, although the emotional effect of the huge chords is overwhelming and has several audience members crying at various times. For me, the first set has its ultimate moments during "Untitled #7" or "Dauðalagið" as it is also known, where the band lets loose with noisy elements and Jónsi Birgisson's characteristic vulnerable falsetto vocals really burn through.

A close runner-up as my other favorite moment is their performance of my all-time favorite Sigur Rós song "Sæglópur" during the second set, followed by the cymbal-filled "Ný Batterí" which is the oldest song they play for us tonight. Setlist-wise, the evening is dominated by atmospheric long-winding songs from the band's career that has Birgisson playing his guitar with a cello bow most of the time. What you might call their most accessible and popular recorded songs such as "Starálfur", "Untitled #3"/"Samskeyti" and not least "Hoppípolla" are nowhere to be seen on the other hand but still, there's a great dynamic movement built into the sequences of songs tonight and we feel safely led through the proceedings. I am also especially pleased as my favorite overall album "( )" is represented by all of four cuts tonight that all make good impressions. I could keep on mentioning things that stand out on the setlist, though, like the soft warmth of "Untitled #1"/"Vaka", the cold industrial tinge of "Kveikur", or the intense build-up of drums that has people clapping along to "Festival", and it is certainly proof of how great a band Sigur Rós is that no single song feels superfluous tonight.

Visually, the band has with them a setup of a big digital screen that is also in part see-through and which is raised and lowered at different times in the set with the band even performing for a song and a half behind it. It shows us different patterns and colors through the songs, working in unison with bars of light that are set to make it look like the light is emanating outwards from the center of the stage itself, and it is a good supporting element for their often instrumental focus. It is not, however, quite as magical to watch as the starry interactive backdrop they had with them for their festival show at NorthSide last year so it becomes a slight let-down after a while. Even so, the overall strong experience of Sigur Rós live under acceptable conditions soundwise is impossible not to be affected by and as I imagine I will always feel, the most obvious "shortcoming" is that they don't play even more songs and sets after the crashing ending of "Untitled #8"/"Popplagið". For that though, it would have been nice to be seated so here's to wishing they can fill out DR Koncerthuset's concert hall next time they visit us.


- Set 1

  • 1. Á (new unreleased song)
  • 2. Ekki Múkk
  • 3. Glósoli
  • 4. Untitled #6 (E-Bow)
  • 5. Untitled #7 (Dauðalagið)
  • 6. Fljótavik
  • 7. Niður (new unreleased song)
  • 8. Varða (new unreleased song)

- Set 2

  • 9. Óveður
  • 10. Sæglópur
  • 11. Ný Batterí
  • 12. Untitled #1 (Vaka)
  • 13. Festival
  • 14. Kveikur
  • 15. Untitled #8 (Popplagið)

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