25th September 2017
I have dropped in to Sigus Ros infrequently over the years, enjoying their other-worldly weirdness as background music for short periods. But generally I found my interest waning after a few songs, and would soon be reaching for my mouse to search out some Jason Isbell or Richard Hawley on Spotify instead.
So it was a bit of a leap of faith on my part to shell out forty-odd quid to spend a whole evening in the company of these eccentric Icelanders.
Rather than access, as I find myself doing before gigs these days, Setlist.FM, I decided to enter this gig blind (or should that be deaf), ensuring most if not all the music I heard would be new to me. First Impressions and all that.
Performing under muted lighting against a stark backdrop the opening two songs were low key ambient affairs; the second of which being augmented with some impressive crackling sounds as if the backing track was being played from a severely abused vinyl LP. It also featured the first occasion Jónsi Birgisson picked up his bow to saw away at his guitar, whilst mewling along in his inimitable manner.
But things certainly jacked up more than a touch during Glosoli, a hypnotically rhythmic ride which built to a crashing climax. We were in late-Sixties Pink Floyd/Saucerful of Secrets/Careful With What Axe, Eugene territory here, I felt. The next piece, called E-bow, followed the same format, and at this juncture I can barely recall any differences between the two.
A woman in front if us stood up and did that hippy arms-swaying-like-branches-in-the-breeze thing during the latter, before she got a ticking off from a steward. Clearly huffed, she and her friend stomped off moments later never to reappear.
The opening few bars to Dauðalagið (it means Death Song, I learned), elicited a modest but noticeable exodus of folks from the auditorium, leading me to surmise this one was either a completely new song, or a well-known duffer. I felt it must be the former, when two false endings resulted in two outbursts of premature applause from the audience. But no, it had apparently appeared on the band's 2002 release entitled ( ). Given the tune weighed in at 12 minutes on the album, perhaps those in the know felt this represented an opportune time to visit both the loos and the bar.
Fljotavik was the first to elicit any spontaneous applause of recognition, and was the first composition to house anything resembling a conventional structure, with verses of recognisable words. In what language though, I had no idea. I assumed Icelandic, but it could easily have been Swahili, Serbo-Croat or even Quenya for all I knew. It truly was an ethereal beauty and was, for me, the high water mark of the evening.
The first set closed with what I later learned was two unreleased songs. During the latter Georg Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason swopped instruments, allowing Holm to play us out with some subtly restrained keyboard work.
|Orri Páll Dýrason|
|Sigur Ros - Glasgow 2017|
Contemplating a twenty minute break and what was likely to be just more of the same, I made the (for me) very unusual decision to skip the second half of the gig. Things had not been unenjoyable, I would stress, and had I found myself somehow superglued to my chair, and unable to be freed until the end of the evening I really would not have minded.
I appreciated most of Sigur Ros' “Greatest Hits” (i.e. the rather more accessibly pieces) would be presented after the break, but nevertheless I really could not imagine these undoubtedly talented and, for all I knew, very personable Icelanders could possibly say anything more than they had already said in the first half.
By “say”, I mean musically of course, for they never spoke a word during their performance. Indeed never even acknowledged there were 3,000 other human beings in the room with them. But I get that. It is all part of the mystique of “we are so different from you, our only form of communication is through our music”.
But just one full hour of being communicated with in such a manner suited me just fine.
|Jónsi sawing and mewling.|
|Sigur Ros - Glasgow 2017|
Set list (first half only)