Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Finally A Real Update

Well, I've been posting only concert updates for so long that I guess I should write about a few that I've been to, since I finally have some downtime at work. Throughout this week I will be posting reviews of shows that I've attended over the last couple of weeks in no particular order.

I will begin with the Sigur Ros show at the Strathmore Music Center on September 11th, which you can listen to here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4834623 (thank you NPR for letting me relive this amazing show over and over again). For those who don't know, Sigur Ros' music is an interesting mix of ambient, shoegaze, alt-rock and classical music that seems nearly impossible to recreate live, but their ability to do so is exactly what made this such an unbelievable show. Singer/guitarist Jonsi Birgisson's voice is so otherworldly on record that you have to believe that it's run through computers forwards and backwards before it actually gets to your ears, but seeing/hearing the voice come directly from his mouth absolutely blew me away.

The show opened just as their new album Takk. . . does with the title-track intro leading into the album's first single, "Glosoli," while the band played behind a translucent curtain and spotlights behind them cast their oversized shadows onto it. As the song grew more intense the lights got brighter and moved faster and I got chills when the song hit its climax. Drums were pounded, guitars were shredded, but by the end of the song, I started to worry about the curtain making me feel disconnected from the band. Thankfully, this was only a concern for about a minute as the curtains parted after the song to reveal the band shifting around to different instruments in preparation for their next opus, which just happened to be one of my favorites, Agaetis Byrjun's "Ny Batteri." It was at this point that I was finally able to see that Jonsi's voice was indeed coming from a human, and as he played his guitar with a bow, I just sat back in complete bliss and let the music sink in. They continued onto an amazing version of "Svefn-G-Englar" which pushed me further into a world in which Sigur Ros could do no wrong, and then unbelievably, they took it to the next level. The next song, "Saeglopur," which I had never heard before, began very quietly with just a xylophone and piano as the string section (and opening act) Amina took the stage. The song builds with almost a pop-song structure for the first few minutes, then breaks down into strings, effects and vocals as it works its way back to the minimalism it began with. It has quickly become one of my favorite songs.

From there, the band continued playing songs from Agaetis Byrjun, ( ) and Takk. . ., but I was so entranced that it didn't matter what they played, I would've loved it anyway. I was only awakened as the band members started to leave the stage several songs later as drummer Orri Pall Dyrason manipulated sounds he'd recorded throughout the last song, playing snippets of vocals, piano other other instruments which slowly faded to silence. (a la Radiohead's classic show ender "Everything in its Right Place") They returned to play the epic "Popplagia" (aka Track 8 on ( )) and as the song reached its peak, the curtains began to close, and the band finished the show just as they had started it, with only shadows visible and bright lights shining in all directions. At this point, I found the curtain to be much more appropriate as they couldn't have just stopped playing and ended the show, the emotional connection with the audience was too strong. They needed to visually distance themselves first, signifying that the end was almost here. (Yes, that sounds cheesy, but it was definitely true) They came out afterwards for a bow, and what we all hoped was one more song, but the cheering was to no avail, only producing a second trip onto the stage for one last bow. Even without that last song, no one left disappointed, and I will champion Sigur Ros as one of the best live bands out there from here on out.


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