Take the Trip
Festival & Touring Reviews…
by Christopher J Walker and Amanda Wheeler
Visiting Santa Barbara
Iceland’s Sigur Rós, one of rock’s most enigmatic and singular bands, concluded their 14-day/eight city North American tour at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre. The 30-year-old group’s newly released album ÁTTA, following a 10-year studio recording hiatus, concurred with the tour. Guitarist/vocalist Jón Þór Birgisson (Jónsi), bassist Georg Hólm, multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson and drummer Olafur Bjorn Olafsson were supported by the New York City-based 41-piece Wordless Music Orchestra, conducted by Robert Ames.....
Anticipation was high as devoted fans eagerly awaited the concert. The highly influential art-rock group who intermix classical, prog/indie rock and ambient soundscapes, last appeared in LA at Disney Hall in 2017. The Greek Theatre’s minimally lit stage with orchestra band stands mostly illuminating created an otherworldly effect. That was perfect for Jónsi’s poignant and airy falsetto that incorporates a wordless singing and scatting mixture of Vonlenska (band created language) and Icelandic.
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Symphonic and atmospheric “Blóðberg” from the new record got things underway with the singer/guitarist/bandleader wistfully vocalizing. The mood and intensity increased as the band inserted edgy yet restrained playing and light percussion for dreamy “Andvari” from Takk and very popular, thematic “Starálfur” from 1999 Ágætis Byrjun. They were accentuated by signature bowing guitar and soothing strings. While new “8” fully spotlighted Jónsi’s unique singing with complimenting lush orchestration.
After intermission, the ensemble continued with more sumptuous songs, such as piano-driven instrumental “Untitled #3 – Samskeyti” and starkly minimal “Heysátan.” Returning to the current record was “Ylur” and “Skel,” which showcased the bandleader’s most exquisite singing. Alternatively, “Sé lest” added variety with high timbre cup bells and a polka brass band segment. Concluding the transforming concert were “Hoppípolla,” and “Avalon” featuring the orchestra to receive an impassioned standing ovation. WMO’s relationship with Sigur Rós began in 2010; they also have worked with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and various film directors.
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