THE BEGINNING

The Icelandic post-rock band have been away for three years – they’ve returned with an extraordinary, immersive live show.

sigurross

Sigur Rós @ Primavera Sound, Barcelona, Saturday 4 June, 2016

There were a lot of open questions for Sigur Rós heading into their first gig in three years. Questions like how would Icelandic ethereal post-rock with impenetrable lyrics translate to a headlining slot at Primavera Sound on the final night? How would Jónsi Birgisson, Goggi Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason work as a three-piece now that Kjartan Sveinsson is gone? Oh, and what on earth were they doing holding an “open rehearsal” in Birmingham a few days ago?

All of the answers quickly arrive. For one, this was to be no ordinary festival show but an audio-visual sensory overload. New track ‘Óveður’ begins with a synthetic heartbeat drum and the trio of bandmates huddled around the middle of the stage behind sculpted metal structures and sheets of mesh. Dark clouds billow ominously across the screens at the back of the stage and Birgisson’s vocals soar skywards as the song reaches its stormy, moody climax.

Perhaps in a nod to festival protocol, the familiar strings and piano of ‘Starálfur’ soon follow, accompanied by gorgeous blue line-and-node visuals on stage as the trio stay rooted to the centre, still shrouded by layers of gauze. When the glockenspiel and clockwork percussion of ‘Sæglópur’ arrives next though, the screens rise, white lasers snake around the stage and the threesome expand outwards like an exploding star; Dýrason diving behind his drum kit and pummelling away, Birgisson grabbing a bow and raking it across his guitar. Delicate beauty becomes destructive power in an instant.

It’s this dynamism that makes things work so well tonight, coupled with a jaw-dropping stage show that takes in LED lights, coordinated screens, CGI and all manner of sleight-of-hand physical trickery. Screens are moved upwards and downwards to create the illusion of shifting skies, landscapes and depths. At one point we see Hólm’s hand playing bass on screen in real-time, only rendered out of laser-like motion capture. Later on, dry ice is combined with clever lighting to give the impression of the stage setting alight.

To say more would be to spoil the surprise and in any case it’s mostly indescribably experiential stuff that needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. Suffice it to say that Birgisson, Hólm and Dýrason will manage just fine on their own and the new album can’t come soon enough. A spectacular return.

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