Icelandic post-rock giants Sigur Rós are something of an enigma within the contemporary music scene; having enjoyed sizeable mainstream success without any compromise of their ambitious, often orchestral material. With appearances already announced for several large festivals and currently mid-way through a world tour, we joined them on the final performance of three sold-out nights at Brixton Academy.
After running the gauntlet of ticket touts and gathering Saturday night crowds, fans slowly filed through the grand entrance hall of the 5000 capacity venue into the amphitheatre like main room. Here they were welcomed by support act Blanck Mass. Whilst the lone producer turned out an interesting mix of tone-setting ambient pieces, a single shadowy figure behind a laptop didn’t make for the most engaging of performances. Despite the slightly underwhelming start, the crowd was atwitter, ruminating on potential set-lists and waiting patiently for the headliners to take the stage.
Accompanied by a small orchestra, the Nordic trio appeared bang on time and as the cheers echoed around the room, launched into Yfirborð – first of three new tracks showcased that evening. This slow building number, with a driving beat and pitch shifted vocals, was brought to life with a wonderful visual show as projections of the silhouetted performers were cast onto a mesh curtain which hung in front of the stage. Mingling with the shadows were bursts of blue and green, bringing the Northern Lights to South London. At the climax of second song Ný batterí, the band were unveiled as the covering fell away with a burst of light and distortion.
Ethereal and note perfect throughout, what followed was a masterful performance; with Sigur Rós delivering a 2 hour set which drew on a wide range of material from their glittering 17-year career. From the driving rhythms and horns of Festival to the glockenspiel and emphatic white noise of Glósóli the crowd was enraptured.
Despite Jónsi having described last year’s Valtari as being unplayable live, one track, Varúð, made an appearance and was very well received; the slowly evolving ambient piece providing the perfect backing for the frontman’s bowed guitar and delicate, haunting vocals. You almost run out of superlatives when trying to describe a band like this but the reaction of the crowd speaks for itself – with the applause lasting so long after the encore, all of the musicians twice reappeared to bow.
With the new material taking an interesting direction on the heavier side of post-rock and fitting seamlessly into an already immense live show, it seems Sigur Rós are once again on the up – just when it seemed they couldn’t go any higher.By Karl Bos