Nov 15, 2022
By Dom Gourlay
It’s been nine years since Sigur Rós last graced a stage in Nottingham, which also coincided with the release of their seventh and most recent long player Kveikur. Since then, the remaining three core players – founding members Jónsi Birgisson and Georg Hólm plus Kjartan Sveinsson, who initially left the band just before Kveikur came out then rejoined earlier this year – have been busy in various guises, whether that be working on solo projects (Birgisson released two albums in the last two years) or other collaborations ranging from experimental sound baths, orchestral works and film soundtracks.
Nevertheless, the spectacle of a Sigur Rós is usually something to behold. Not least because of the breathtaking visuals the band regularly use to accompany the sonics, which range from refined ambience to ostentatiously loud. Indeed, one of the t-shirts on the band’s merch stand proclaims this tour as being “Slow And Loud”, which probably sums up the band’s ethos concisely. Playing as a four-piece this evening, sometime live collaborator Ólafur Ólafsson filling in on drums alongside the aforementioned trio. Birgisson and Hólm flitting between their customary places stage centre and right for the occasional foray to join Sveinsson on additional keys and synthesizers.
With such an extensive back catalogue to choose from its to the band’s advantage that there is no support, instead opting to play two sets so in essence, technically supporting themselves. It serves a grandiose purpose too, not least by way of the opening set proving something of an introductory build-up to the aural crescendo that follows post-intermission. Third album ( ) aka “Untitled” celebrated its twentieth birthday last month so it was an unadulterated pleasure to hear six of its eight pieces receive an outing here alongside “Smáskifa” off the record’s bonus edition, albeit spread across the two sets. Opening with the same trio that introduces the record (“Vaka”, “Fyrsta” and “Samskeyti” aka Untitled #1, #2 and #3) set the scene immeasurably for what followed. “Svefn-g-englar” off 1999’s breakthrough album Ágætis byrjun unsurprisingly received one of the biggest cheers of the night. Birgisson’s exemplary falsetto and guitar sound sans cello bow almost raising the roof off the ornate concert hall.
Staying with the same era, both “Rafmagnið búið” and “Ný batterí” off the Ný batterí EP are welcome additions, the latter given a heavier than usual makeover that led succinctly into the one new song aired this evening, “Gold 2”. Although as yet unreleased, its featured as a regular set staple throughout this tour and already sounds accomplished in its own atmospheric way.
As the twenty minutes long interlude gives way to a projection that simply reads Takk, Sigur Rós open the second set with another of their best known songs. One of four compositions lifted from 2005’s fourth album Takk, “Glósóli” is simply majestic. Birgisson’s vocal cutting through as the song builds and builds before erupting in a crescendo of white noise – not for the last time this evening. “Sæglópur”, “Gong” and “Andvari” all follow, each one a mesmerising reminder of the album from which they’re lifted’s assailant beauty.
However, it’s the last three songs of the set that take tonight’s performance into a whole other stratosphere. While “Festival” – the only song aired off 2008’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust this evening – dazzles and sparkles in all its opulence, the crushingly brutal renditions of “Kveikur” and “Popplagið” (aka Untitled #8) that bring tonight’s show to a tumultuous finale represents arguably the loudest, most brutal end to a show this venue has witnessed in a very long time.
As the four band members returned to the stage to take a bow afterwards, every single person rose from their seat in rapturous applause. Nearly a decade may have passed since 2013’s last appearance in the city, but one thing’s for certain. Nobody present this evening will forget the show Sigur Rós delivered tonight. Astonishing, breathtaking, life affirming. The superlatives continue to flow long into the night. An incredible masterclass in sound and vision.