Sigur Ros as reviewed in The Phantom Tollbooth. Iceland’s finest doing what they do the best

Sigur Rós @ The Skyline Stage at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Philadelphia, PA

July 29, 2012

The newly minted Skyline Stage at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia opened its doors to the public for the first time with Sigur Rós (Victory Rose) the enigmatic quartet from Iceland. This was the band’s first show in four years and the venue could not have been more perfect. As the sun set the moonlight illuminated the Philadelphia Skyline (hence the name of the venue) creating the most intimate backdrop for Sigur Rós’ soul stirring brand of rock.

The band was joined on stage by seven other musicians playing strings and horns, most notably a French horn which I’ve never seen at a rock show before, that was featured throughout the show. This was the first show in support of their new album Valtari. They opened with "Ekki Múkk" a somber ballad that melted into the next song "Varúð" which sent the crowd into a frenzy as the song reached the apex of its crescendo as lead singer Jonsí sung “hallelujah” over the symphony of sound.

Even though Sigur Rós have been making music for over 15 years their music still defies categorization. They have songs ("Popplagið" for instance) where they are rocking harder than any metal band, contemplative songs ("Dauðalogn") where there’s nothing but an organ, sparse electronics and Jonsí’s soaring falsetto vocals. Seeing them live is the perfect context for experiencing their truly original oeuvre. Sigur Rós is a musician’s band, live you get to see how they create their lush layered music. Whether it be Georg (the Bassist) playing bass with a drumstick, Jonsí playing guitar with a violin bow (which creates a menacing sound) or a horn solo you know these guys are students of music, the sublimely of their songs testify to this.

The crowd was completely engaged throughout the performance. The only conservation that really took place centered on what songs were being played. Answers varied from, “The one where the Bassist plays the bass with a drumstick” to “I don’t know but I love it” and everything in between. From the moments of quiet introspection through the moments of unyielding, violent, catharsis the band was in command of the audience the whole night overpowering us with such emotional force  that it felt like a valtari (steamroller) at times. It is hard to put into words what one feels when transcendent music engulfs you and takes you places you never knew existed so let me end by saying this. Sigur Rós live is a worship experience like none I’ve ever felt in any church or anywhere for that matter.

  1. Ekki Múkk
  2. Varúð
  3. Ný Batterí
  4. Í Gær
  5. E-bow
  6. Sæglópur
  7. Svefn-g-englar
  8. Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása
  9. Hoppípolla
  10. Með Blóðnasir
  11. Olsen Olsen
  12. Festival
  13. Hafsól
  1. Dauðalogn
  2. Popplagið