Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thoughts: Sigur Ros @ Massey Hall, 9.22.08

Surprise to no one, Massey Hall was packed to the rafters tonight with fans eager to welcome back dreamy Icelandic quartet Sigur Ros, currently touring in support of a record with a very long title I cannot pronounce.

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The nice thing about living in this city is that it allows me to get some culture whilst indulging in my laziness. No matter how much I loved the act, I could very rarely muster the energy to endure two border crossings, currency exchanges or [if the Palace is involved] an hour drive on American freeways. Hopping the Yonge line for fifteen minutes is much preferable.

The night started with fellow Icelanders Parachutes and honestly, the less said about them, the better. That's probably not fair, if I had seen them in any other context, I would likely have thought they were amazing. But the band is so clearly influenced by the act they're opening for, it just felt like Sigur Ros-lite. At one point I actually zoned out to the point where I was thinking about hamburgers. Not even because I wanted one, that's just what came to mind.

By 9.00 the main attraction had taken the stage, alone. One of the notable details about this particular outing is that Sigur Ros has been touring without any additional instrumentation. No string section, no horn section, just the band.

The decision to tour on their own means the setlist takes on a distinctly rockier, guitar-centric feel, spanning a decent selection of each of the band's four major-label albums [sorry diehards, I didn't catch any Von selections tonight]. Old favourites like Ny Batteri [with its percussion-controlled lighting rig] worked flawlessly with new songs like Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur, all tinkly piano and throbbing backbeat.

While I was enthralled for the entirety of the show, I didn't feel totally connected to it until the end portion. Saeglopur [from 2005's Takk] has long been my favourite song by the band, so to finally hear it start up live was enough to move me to tears. Surprisingly, the band then moved directly into Popplagid from (), which has been the show closer for years. After building the song's tension for over six minutes before bursting in a wash of feedback, the crowd didn't know what they could do for an encore. The answer, wisely, was to move in the totally opposite direction, bringing out the acoustic guitars for a two song encore of Illgresi and Gobbledigook, both from the new album.

The joyous rhythms of Gobbledigook, which brought Parachutes back to the stage playing marching drums, and the entire audience clapping along, was transcendent. By the time an unexpected cannon of confetti exploded over the unsuspecting Massey Hall crowd, it was impossible not to be amazed at how something as simple as a three minute song can totally transform you.

If you're catching the show tonight in Detroit, to say you'll enjoy it is a gross understatement.

Massey Hall security was running everyone amok for trying to film, so my videos, while sounding angelic, aren't much to look at. Bug me if you want one that bad, I'll throw it on YouTube until they take it down.


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