Nov 13 2008 By Gavin McInally
“So what does this guy sound like then…?”
Incredible, an old-bingo hall, crammed from the front-of-house speakers to Row Z in the upper tier and not one of the 2,500 fans inside could accurately describe the aural logistics of Sigur Ros in a short, meaningful sentence to two puzzled, middle-aged, Glaswegian woman who’d scooped the gold-dust briefs in a competition run by their national tabloid of choice.
“Erm, well, it’s a group, not just a guy and, well, they don’t even sing in English… in fact most of it’s gibberish, but beautiful, a bit like, well no-one really. They’re really good though.”
Nice one Shakespeare.
Perhaps aptly, it’s left to a man of very few words, Jonsi Birgisson, and his post-rock Icelandic quartet to provide the answers in a majestic two-hour, genre transcending live performance which ebbs and flows with the precision of an army drill masked by an organic, free-flowing fairytale of harrowing beauty.
From the second the diminutive frontman takes the stage dressed as an extra from Lord of the Rings the capacity crowd is transfixed with the chilling melody of opener Svefn-G-Englar serving to heighten the senses.
The full string and brass section which stole the show on the Scottish hills of Argyle at Connect Festival earlier this year, sadly don’t feature, but the instantly appealing Við Spilum Endalaust and mass “oh-oh-oh” welcome for Með Blóðnasir do their best to compensate for the lack of cymbals.
All hell breaks loose – even signs of some toe tapping at the front – as the hypnotic beats of Gobbledigook pound out from the PA aided by the bongo drum bashing from support act For A Minor Reflection and a confetti explosion overhead, leaving traces of coloured paper in dozens of pints of over-priced Carling.
It all proves to be just foreplay though as the show reaches an astonishing crescendo in the shape of 12-minute masterpiece Popplagið (The Pop Song).
The slowly building, hauntingly repetitive drumming of Orri Pall Dyrason fed by Jonsi’s whaling bow-driven guitar and Georg Holm’s subtle bass signature literally feels like the sound of redemption until the cymbals crash, guitar chords are torn out and the screams become goosepimply chilling as it all comes together in a perfect, beautiful chaos.
Words don’t describe Sigur Ros, experiencing it does, and two lucky women had no idea what they were letting themselves in for tonight.