There are bands who are great when listening to their records, others are probably better live on stage as on their albums while a few are pretty good on both mediums. And there is a band like SIGUR RÓS who can’t fit in any of these categories. SIGUR RÓS are SIGUR RÓS – they stand beside and probably above all genres, expectations and everything you might ever experience live. They are their own world, their live shows are a microcosm and they belong to the best moments of how you will ever experience music in your life. Period. It’s always been that way and it surely was again on that cold February night in Berlin. Seriously – everybody, go see this band live. Every other phrase might not come close to a proper description – but, well, we try it anyway.
After fifteen years in the business it looks like SIGUR RÓS just finished the first phase of their career with an exciting second chapter coming up. Last year’s return – in the form of the calmed down longplayer Valtari – was quite surprising as the group broke with their previous progression and presented a very introspective and reduced record. It felt like they needed to take a deep breath, looking back before moving forward. After founding member Kjartan Sveinsson recently left the group (in peace) and with a new record on its way the band is more vital than ever. The upcoming record – still planned for a 2013 release – might see them exploring more rough and experimental ground than before. The breath-taking of Valtari has been done, it’s time to start playing again. Many of these new songs were presented on the sold-out show in Berlin’s Tempodrom on that night. And they are really show what exciting material we can expect. Yfirborð has opener was pretty fitting while the pumping Brennisteinn impressed with dark and – at least for this band – quite heavy electronic influences. Kveikur – in parts – almost sounded like it got a straight technoid beat. There is life in these new moments, SIGUR RÓS seem to be sick of the recent lethargy.
Experiencing the Icelandic band in concert is a very special event which can hardly be described to outsiders or people who are not familiar with their music. It’s overhelming music, partly coming from postrock roots but it left this tight bodice years ago. Folk, pop, classical music, ambient. Deeply depressing, highly euphoric, dreamy and beautiful, aggressively heavy – it’s a ride on an emotional rollercoaster. SIGUR RÓS produce the soundtrack to a yet unfilmed movie – or better said: it’s music for the greatest, most disturbing, action-filled and funniest movie of all: life. And their show gets more and more professional. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION was already blown away by it last September at the Berlin Festival (watch the whole performance below this article), now there are some new elements added. We don’t want to spoil that much but the concept with the lightbulbs, visuals and band just works perfect. Choreographed perfection – never was it so fulfilling and effective here.
The setlist features songs from all periods of the band’s career, although the 2008 longplayer Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust is missing. And also Valtari seems to be no longer a topic for the band, besides the inclusion of the record’s one really outstanding moment – Varúð. Especially this one perfects the combination of sound and images in a very stunning way. We get a lot of ‘classics’ – of course, the easy-floating Svefn-G-Englar from Ágætis Byrjun needs to be included and also Sæglópur and Hoppípolla, the band’s two ‘hit singles’ from 2005 longplayer Takk… But as always, songs are irrelevant in the concept of this show. It’s the whole moment that counts. The trio – surrounded by a lot of extra musicians – dedicate itself unconditionally to their songs. Jónsi Birgisson really doesn’t want to be frontman but he is quite charismatic – noble, furious, fragile and unique. And even if his voice is maybe not as perfect on this night as on previous ones it is still stunning and leaves you breathless.
Is there anything negative to say about this night? No. Seriously, why desperately looking for criticism when there is no. The show is excellent (and with over two hours quite long) and the music is a blast. May it be the deep sadness of the reduced Vaka or the ecstatic energy of the over twelve minutes long closer Popplagið – both taken from 2002’s untitled record – if you have at least once bit of musical feeling in your bones, this won’t leave you untouched. And the Berlin crowd on that night might even agree with us. You can clearly say that by experiencing the applause at the end which lasted for minutes and forced the band to come back out multiple times before the lights went finally on and everybody was ‘forced’ to head back into the brutality of real life. A life which isn’t scored by SIGUR RÓS every minute – a quite depressing observation. They might make the best music of the world and if you think we used a bit too much superlatives and overstatements here, please visit them live during their ongoing tour and tell us you had a different impression. But until then – and, well, pardon us for not having it stated yet clearly – go see this band live!