The main reason we went to NYC last weekend, was to go to a concert by Jónsi of Sigur Rós. This is his first solo tour promoting the new album Go. I've wanted to see Sigur Rós for years, but since they're not touring now, as soon as Jónsi announced his N. American tour (and no dates were in the southeast), Chris suggested going to New York. To say I was excited was an understatement, but the actual show surpassed all expectations.
The show was held at the venue Terminal 5 in the Hell's Kitchen/Clinton area of Midtown West and is one of the larger venues of it's kind in the city. We didn't arrive super early, but still got there before most of the people arrived so we picked a good spot on the 3rd floor mezzanine close to the stage. As the time passed during the opening artist, the place got fuller and fuller...and finally filled to its 3000 capacity with all 3 floors swarming with people. There were people sitting at our feet to look through our legs over the railing. I read some reviews that many people had such a hard time seeing anything, were really uncomfortable from the crowd heat, etc, so it made me even more thankful for our spot, because it was seriously a great and comfortable place to be.
The anticipation was so high when Jónsi finally took the stage, and when he sang the first note, everyone stopped breathing. The first song "Stars in Still Water" was played acoustically with just Jónsi, his voice, his guitar, and one small light. Then the 4 members of the live band (Alex, Doddi, Óbó and Úlfur) joined him on stage and suddenly the entire area was filled with images of butterflies, owls, deer, hummingbirds, flowers, wolves, and winter woods. The next couple of songs were a bit low key and beautiful (Hengilás and Icicle Sleeves), so by the time the climax in the middle of Kolniður came around, the strobe light flashed and a huge screen dropped. Everyone finally took a breath and realized that we were standing around in a warehouse. He's so great at building anticipation in his music...even with the long drawn out pieces of Sigur Rós.
Throughout the 85-min or so show, the band members all traded places among the collection of instruments (several guitars, a mandolin, upright piano, keyboards, xylophone, electronic sound boards, and steel trash can tops). The drummer was one of the most interesting things to watch on stage, hitting things non stop. The xylophonist even used stringed bows on one song to "strum" the metal keys. Jónsi wore this overcoat full of hanging feathers and colorful tassels, and a few of the other band members had long feathers hanging from their sleeves as well.
The stage production was a collaboration with the UK-based company, 59 Productions and although I read about it and watched some "visual diary" posts leading up to the tour, the final show was better than I imagined. The videos will never do the live experience justice - as being there was so incapsulating. This Wall St. Journal article gives an interesting look into the making of the stage experience: Behind the Set.
When the show finished, the applause never stopped until the band's reappearance for the encore. This was by far one of the best parts of the entire show. They played two songs beginning with "Animal Arithmetic". Jónsi had put on this huge feather headdress for this last part and all the stops were pulled out for the amazing stage animations. The final piece of "Grow Till Tall" was one of the best live pieces I've ever heard. It's not even worth trying to describe the climax as my descriptions would fall short. But I think there was a long moment of silence as no one knew quite how to react when it was over...then we all took our hands, closed our jaws, blinked, wiped a few tears, and tried hard to express appreciation with applause. Oh, and like I mentioned before leaving, as a somewhat tribute, I made sure to wear feathers in my hair! :)
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