August 11, 2012

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by Christy

After a tortuous car trip from Corvallis to the Edgefield through rush hour traffic, nothing else mattered except hugging my boys and being in the presence of live musical mastery. It was so wonderful to set eyes on my blue-eyed Anders, and even better to hug him and Ted through the show. He was so jazzed up about EVERYTHING from the train, ND, the show, that I had to remind him that the show was still going on—pay attention!

Sigur Rós brings some kind of special magic both to the studio and stage. Most of their lyrics, and actually the vast majority of those they played live, are in Vonlenska, translated as "Hopelandic," gibberish. It doesn't matter if you speak English or Icelandic, it is the music that speaks and the meaning comes through the instruments, including the instrument of Jónsi's voice. The emotional range conveyed in each song, and song-to-song, can make me weep (as in "Viðrar vel til loftárása," translated "Good day for an airstrike"), or dance with joy (as in “Hoppípolla," translated “Hopping in puddles"). As you will see in the video, a song can start with a creepily-pretty circus-like xylophone/glockenspiel quartet, then merge into a heavy-wall-of-sound torrent following the same musical theme, which sent Anders into playing air-drums (on "I Gaer").

The first and only other time that we say them play as a band was in 2008 on the tour to support "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" ("With sound in our ears we play endlessly"). Only the 4 band members played that show. The album itself was much more pop-oriented and accessible, although was overall true to form for the band. It was a high-energy show with many of the songs from that album, one of the best experiences in my life.

On this tour, they played only 1 song from that album, Festival, another 9+ minute epic. In this show, they played the "deep cuts," songs chosen from their first to their latest albums in a musical tour-de-force. There were 11 people on stage on this tour, bringing back strings and brass to fill out the sound, as they had done on previous tours. Even during a song, band members would switch instruments.

Their newest album, Valtari, is much more reminiscent of their older albums with 10 minute songs that build, shift, grow with a theme and speak their own language. Valtari requires many listens to grasp and hold. There are fewer readily-accessible songs. And although they only played a few of the songs from Valtari, the rest of the set list was composed of the same kinds of songs from their past albums. They played 15 songs in 1 hour and 45 minutes. There is no chatting or pause between songs, so that's an average of 7 minutes per song. I managed to get a video of the whole of Hoppípolla, one of my all-time favorite happy songs, at around 3 minutes. Many of the songs were over 10 minutes long, although time doesn't matter when they are playing. They played 1 encore, "Popplagið", or Untitled #8 from the ( ) album, clocking in at about 12 minutes. Amazing.

Although I was hoping that they would play a song like "Gobbledigook" for Anders, a high-energy romp named for the Icelandic word for the sound of galloping horse hooves (a tidbit I picked up by chatting with an Icelander in the Reykjavik airport security line), the show was everything powerful about Sigur Rós. The best part of the night was when Anders looked at me and said, “thank you for bringing me to this concert. It's awesome.” My dear boy.

The experience of the crowd at the Edgefield was its own parallel experience. Ted and Anders came from the train station to the venue, getting in early and grabbing us a great spot in the grass, enough behind the "standing section" in front to sit and enjoy the show. However, once the show started, the people just behind the standing section felt compelled to stand, which compelled those in the next row to stand, and so on until we in the 5th row also had to stand to see much of anything. We had a bit of a window between the folks in front of us, so sometimes we could sit and still see. Sometimes we sat and just listened, sometimes we stood, sometimes one of us would hold up Anders so that he could see better. It was alright.

The crowd was your Portland mix of hipsters and hippies, and us. Free-dancing lady on the aisle was a sight. The guys in front of us carried on a conversation through the whole show, which was annoying during the quiet parts of songs. A girl dressed in the Edgefield waitress uniform sat in front of us part-way through the show, bringing a box of food that included brown cheese (geitøst!), which she shared with all of the talky hipsters and us too. After the show, I taught them all about brown cheese and how to buy it. New Seasons won't be able to keep it in stock for the next week, if the hipsters remember to buy some.

Here is the link to the video.

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(Click on a picture to start slide show.)

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