Icelandic “post-rock” band Sigur Rós stopped at Hollywood’s Greek Theatre on Monday night to share the beauty of their work with thousands of faithful fans.
Founder and guitar/vocalist Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson, bassist Georg Hólm, and recent addition keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson brought their most meditative and ethereal work to Southern California for the first time in years. Joining the band onstage was the Wordless Music Orchestra, who lifted the band’s already soaring music to new heights.
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The night began as if Sigur Rós were quietly taking us to church. As soon as the lights started to dim (and after a brief rousing cheer from the crowd), the 5,900-seat theater went silent with anticipation. The stage had an auburn glow provided almost solely from Edison bulbs placed throughout the orchestra. It remained like this throughout most of the night, allowing the audience to settle in with the music and not be so focused on what was happening on stage. Without fanfare, Sigur Rós then took the stage, and a night like no other began.
Opening with “Blóðberg” from their most recent album, Átta (one of their very best works), the night began calmly. The strings of the orchestra weaved their way around Jónsi’s stunning vocals and the drag of a cello bow against his guitar, a hypnotic trait that adds a ghostly beauty to the music.
Singing in the created language of Vonlenska (also known as Hopelandic), the words are simply Jónsi’s vocalizations that have no meaning or definition. They are merely just another instrument, giving the music its shape and weight.
Spanning their entire catalog, the band played 19 songs over a two-act show, never breaking to banter with the audience but instead giving them an experience that begs to be felt. The music surrounds you and lifts you up even when it projects an unbearable sadness (“Fljótavík”). With the orchestra, Sigur Rós’ compositions take on a new life, investing them with an impact that pushes into your soul as if leading you to places you’d never thought you’d go.
This might sound like a hefty proclamation, but fans of the band understand. This is music that is felt, not sung along to. Songs like Act One closer “Varðeldur” clearly struck a chord, and when the opening notes were heard, there was a happy exaltation from the crowd. The same goes for the two tracks from the album ( ) that opened Act Two, “Untitled #1 (Vaka)” and “Untitled #2 (Samskeyti).”
The band ended the evening with the dramatic and inspiring “Hoppípolla” from their album “Takk…” leaving the audience to rise from their seats in rapturous adoration of one of the most innovative, original, and beloved bands of the last four decades.
Stunning in every sense of the word, Sigur Rós is like no other. They have created something so singular and celestial that, like Jónsi’s words, truly cannot be described.