Sigur Ros: Dread, foreboding and a spiritual communion

Aware Super Theatre, August 12

While the return of the world’s biggest and best bands to our shores marks an end to the worst ravages of the pandemic, an all-too-familiar sense of dread and foreboding laces Sigur Ros’ first Sydney concert in five years. There is even something of the locked down, streaming-from-the-artists’-living-room-to-yours intimacy to the show – which is quite the feat in a sold-out arena.

Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi in Brisbane this week.Credit:Markus Ravik

Whether huddled in a knot over a Hammond organ in a corner of the stage for Samskeyti, as ghostly silhouettes in billowing mist for haunting vignettes from their coming album, or epically rocking out in show-closer Popplagio, there is a hardwire to each audience member: it’s just you and the band.

Sometimes it’s not even the band, just you: halfway through a number in the second half of the show they walk off, while the music continues to swirl and flow – only to return a minute later. By shunning ego and spotlight they allow us an almost spiritual communion directly with their material.

And what material it is. Sigur Ros have matured beyond the more playful songs in their catalogue – ad man’s favourite Hoppipolla would have been utterly incongruent – and endow their best work with new depth and texture. Audience favourites Svefn-g-englar, Glosoli and Ny Batteri are present but not quite as we remember them: darker, deeper, tinged with a new sobriety.

I say they are audience favourites but in truth it is hard to know which the favourites are: there is hardly a peep from the crowd during the two-and-a-half-hour show. Impossible as it is to sing along to Jonsi’s glorious falsetto and Icelandic/gobbledegook lyrics, it feels irreverent to cheer through the thundering reverb and eerie stillness that fill the gaps between songs.

But don’t mistake stunned silence for emotional distance: a 9000-strong standing ovation needs no translation, nor does the band’s own response as they come out not to bow or play one more song but to applaud the audience.

It is not an easy show –neither for the band nor for the crowd – but in that collective effort something extraordinary lived and breathed on this night.

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