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Sigur Ros, Glasgow Carling Academy

Photo courtesy Heidi Kuisma
Photo courtesy of Heidi Kuisma

An eagerly awaited sold out gig and one that finds the Icelandic quartet at a crossroads of sorts.

New album ‘with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly’ was something of a progression for the band, drawing from the acoustic work the band produced for their recent DVD as well as from more traditional ‘rock sounds’. They even had one song sung in English! To my ears the best songs were the more gentle tracks, some with very sparse instrumentation: a piano or an acoustic guitar, or perhaps a choir.

Tonight sadly very few of these songs were played, instead the band focused on more bass heavy and percussive tracks. This was my first problem with the gig: I understand that 3,000 people might want ‘entertainment’ but they did buy Sigur Ros tickets did they not? Would slower songs really have been a challenge? Wouldn’t it have sold the album better by playing all the best songs? Of all bands I felt that they could have trusted their audience.

Before the gig I noted was that the band was not touring with Amiina, the string quarter that has been palying with them for several years now. How would the band react? They reacted by simplifying the instrumentation and choosing carefully from the back catalogue. This was my second problem with the gig: it did veer a bit too close to foot in the monitor rock for my taste. This band is different, and therein lays their appeal. The sound is other-worldly, the strings and glockenspiels add layers and depth and the vocals create more raw sound and answer no questions.

Is there a market for them to strip away the layers and ‘get their message across’? Isn’t the mystery the message? The layers of perception their audience add to the band create their appeal rather than lyric sheets or guitar solos. We project a meaning and this emotion works with the music to subjectify the experience.

I have a few theories:

1. They are bored with the noises, clicks, long songs and romantic notions attached to them by over eager fans and fan websites.
2.  They believe that at heart they are a rock band and want to show a ‘new side to their work’.
3. In these days of ‘credit crunch’ they are tailoring their set for stadiums across the globe. Are they perhaps planning the next ‘leap forward’ in their career?
4. Maybe when bands get to audiences of 3,000 or more it does attract people who need loud noises, backdrops, catchy songs. People who attend because it’s cool, or in NME, or their pals are going. Poeple who will drink, and talk over them. Maybe their core audience is now a minority and the band realise this?

Who really knows?  I have seen them 4 times going back several years and they always left me awestruck. Tonight though they were merely very, very good and only ‘Poppligadd’ and ‘Saegloppur’ stirred the blood and raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I love them still but I hope the next album sees a retreat from more clearly understood lyrics, bigger guitars, driving rhythms and attempts to ‘work the room’. Let the room work harder to understand the band and its music.

Vespertine

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5 Responses

  1. A real shame they have gone that harder route. they were so fragile and beautiful before.

    I don’t think you can blame the audience though. After all, 3,000 people turned up expecting to hear the Sigur Ros of old; they didn’t know it would be like this till they got there.

    As for the audience working harder – fine, but don’t charge them £25 for the privilege. it’s supposed to be fun!

  2. at times all i could hear was peoples’ weekend plans, and how many beers they wanted their friend to get from the bar. made me miss many delicate sigur ros moments, so i think the audience is to blame at least partly. if 3000 people turned up expecting to hear the sigur ros of old, why were there so many peple busy talking and not listening. i’m glad that most of the gig was loud and harder so that i could concentrate on their music.

  3. their show here in minneapolis was fantastic. i was also very disappointed that amiina wasn’t touring with them but they managed to put on a phenomenal show. they played quite a few of the slower, more intimate songs off their new album.

    i have to admit though, one grudge i have against them is the cost of their shirts. $35 for a t shirt! also, the opening band, parachutes, was a terrible knock off of sigur ros’ music.

  4. Ah, Minneapolis, home of The Replacements, Husker du and The Hold Steady – not bad at all!

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