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Monday, October 6, 2008

Sigur Ros @ Benaroya Hall

posted by on October 6 at 14:39 PM

There were no string sections, extra horns, or even a waifish entourage behind Sigur Ros last night at Benaroya Hall. It would’ve been an ideal venue for the band’s overwhelming orchestral assault, much like they delivered to the Paramount in 2005, but their four-piece arrival made sense in regards to their latest record, Gibberish That I Don’t Understand. Other than a blast of horn here and there, the band plays that album as if they were some sort of rock band. Crazy, I know.

But what made Sigur Ros’ set special last night wasn’t the new or poppy material. Stomping single “Gobbledigook” was actually hampered by Benaroya’s acoustics, buried by the crowd’s compliant, echoing clap-along (though at least it respected singer Jon Birgisson’s request in broken English to “clap in beat”). To be fair, the rocking material was unilaterally strong, and one song even got members of the crowd to stand up in the stuffy, sit-down room and dance along to a vivid, Technicolor display. But this delivery is the Sigur Ros we’ve heard before—the forceful falsetto that dominates and captivates, the masterful melding of piano and xylo/glocken parts without resorting to echo delays, the over-pedaled guitar that’s bowed to bloody death.

Rather, the most striking moments came when the band used its fifth member—its sense of white space between the other instruments—to great effect. Granted, anybody can pause or let notes linger and turn a two-minute song into ten minutes of junk; what Sigur Ros did, rather, was take its older, orchestral approach and condense it into beautiful recipes of tone. For example: one part vocal cry, one part guitar pluck for every vocal shift, and stir within Benaroya’s cavernous space.

There they were on second song “All Alright,” standing yards apart on the massive stage and allowing piano notes, (what looked like) a farfisa organ, and Birgisson’s peaking falsetto to warble through open space, mingling together in that aforementioned fashion to incredible effect. Convenient that this song is their only one in English, as the band laid itself most bare on it last night—“Singing in tune, together / A psalm for no one,” their lead singer cried, as a woman’s face was rendered on the stage’s massive screen in two-tone simplicity. The attentive crowd was particularly fond of this use of silence and space, watching so quietly that the only noise at times was the very last breath of Birgisson on a particular vocal section, and after that, only the rattle of Benaroya’s A/C unit. (The fuck was that on for, anyway?)

Strangely, the same power was found in Sigur Ros’ new, scorched-earth take on “Popplagid,” the final track on ( ), which closed the show with harsh crimson and harsher tones colliding, pausing in the air, and allowing Birgisson to turn this sad song into an angry, burning condemnation. Strings, horns, and other accompaniment would’ve filled the hall with too much distraction; the new take, with its drawn-out feedback, burning into silence before breathing fire again, made just enough room to let the song’s new sense of frustration linger all the way up to Benaroya’s massive ceiling and back down again.

RSS icon Comments


I admit that I missed Amiina's backup vocals, strings, and charmingness a little bit, but hearing Sigur Ros's stripped-down rockish take on their material was plenty awesome.

Posted by josh | October 6, 2008 3:59 PM

Agreed all around.

Posted by Morgan | October 6, 2008 7:43 PM

I liked David's review better, why did you delete it?

Posted by hillster | October 6, 2008 7:52 PM
Posted by SteveM | October 6, 2008 8:26 PM

@4: I was curious if anybody who wasn't wise to Sigur Ros would head to the show and assume the opener was actually the real deal, since they sounded like a band that only listened to Sigur Ros. Plus, the tickets/venue didn't say anything about an opening band.

David, I agree that Parachutes were awful. I fell asleep twice during their set. But I have to correct you... their lyrics were actually in English. I wrote down something about trees and wind before zonking out the second time.

Posted by Sam M. | October 6, 2008 8:37 PM

That is fucking hilarious.

More reviews of opening bands please!

Posted by Mark Donuts | October 6, 2008 9:32 PM

1. Opening band: Sigur Also. Avoid.

2. Sigur Ros played Benaroya on the last tour (in addition to the Paramount show) with Amiina backing.

Posted by Tiktok | October 6, 2008 11:55 PM

while we're at it w/r/t that zombie post: not all of sigur ros's lyrics are in "hopelandic" -- many are in Icelandic and one is in English -- and the band isn't "under 30".

Posted by josh | October 7, 2008 3:36 PM

I kind of pity that David jerk, he really made a colossal ass of himself with that review. It's really sad that such an uppity ignorant asshole took a seat from someone who would have really enjoyed that (amazing) show.

Posted by petit lamplighter | October 7, 2008 9:34 PM

David, your a fucking idiot. Punch yourself in the face.

Posted by bill | October 8, 2008 1:24 PM

And yes, from Wikipedia, they're not under 30:

Jon Birgisson - 33
Georg Holm - 32
Kjartan Sveinsson - 30
Orri Pall Dyrason - 31

Yea, good times all around with David's review :) it's from the 'I didn't go to the show but I need to sound like I know stuff' school.

Posted by abc | October 8, 2008 11:45 PM

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