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Sigur Ros: Live in Detroit by Jacqueline Ristola

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Driving down to Detroit, anticipation for the Sigur Rós concert was quelled by assigned readings and reflection. Remnants of a lecture lingered in my mind concerning the decline of the city, robbed of its vitality with the decline of industry in the nation. But within the city, a gilded stage remains, The Fox Theater, the destination of my friends and I for our eventful night.

There are many acts that are radically different seeing live than listening via an album. My Brightest Diamond’s set last year comes to mind; full of masks, theatricality, and raw talent, Shara Worden elevates her music to beautiful performance art. The same might be said for Sigur Rós. With the elegant theater stage set with an opaque screen separating the performers from the audience, the concert began. Projections of light and images illuminated the screen, eventually culminating with a large shadow of a man lit to mythic proportions. That man would be Jónsi, wailing on his guitar with a violin bow, blasting sound to fill the room. At the apex of their second song in, the veil dramatically dropped, and the concert really began.

With a large encompassing screen in the back and small lights on the stage, Sigur Rós combines visuals and music as effectively as I’ve ever seen in a large show, often connecting the two in terms of creates a cohesive atmospheric effect. The visuals always supported and added to the narrative effect of each song. Whether it be the slow plan up of revealing to be a mountain, a colored wave of light mirroring the surface of water, or the actual music video to the track itself, the production values illustrated themselves as more than just eye candy, but inherent to the performance itself.

The music was grand in every sense of the word; epic in scope and breadth, nuanced and mixed for clarity and precision, and performed to fill the auditorium to the brim with luscious sound. One highlight of the night included the performance of “Brennisteinn,” a heavier, metal-inflected track off their new album coming out this June. Another was a drifting vocal solo by Jonsi to finish a song, hitting a high note for over a minute with an almost beguiling sense of grace and serenity. With a mix of old favorites and newer tracks, one length encore was enough to make concert attendees fully satisfied.

Needless to say, my friends and I left the theater elated. One mentioned it was the best concert he’d ever been to, while another mentioned it exceeded his already high expectations. Driving back, the night ended with the remark that every human being should see a Sigur Rós song performed live. Leaving the lusciously decorated Fox Theater into the disparate Detroit cold, I lamentably, yet heartily agreed.