Sigur Rós @ Red Rocks
Saturday, September 27, 2008
By Brian F. Johnson
Photos by Jonathan Keller
Summer officially ended on Monday, September 22, but this show — the final night of Red Rock’s 2008 summer season — was the unofficial close of the season, and I can’t think of a better way to end the summer than this show — a concert that was aurally and aesthetically gorgeous, and at once celebrated the departing summer months with happy energy, while equally welcoming the cold, melancholy winter nights to come.
The weather in the area throughout the day threatened to put an autumn stamp on the evening with some chilly breezes and rainy-looking skies, but as the opening act, Parachutes, took the stage just after 7 p.m., the weather mustered its best impression of summer that it could.
Parachutes, who like Sigur Rós, hail from Reykjavik, Iceland, set the tone of the early part of the evening with a set that sounded remarkably like Sigur Rós, except for the main fact that Parachutes sing in English. Their orchestral pop was musically sound, well delivered and beautiful, but something about their delivery and the music itself lacked ample energy, which kept the large crowd glued to their seats for nearly the entire set — getting up to dance, or even sway to the music was a crowd no-no.
Unfortunately, that crowd-imposed no standing rule carried into the opening songs of Sigur Rós’ set. But just as the band launched into its third song of the night — its sole English song “All Right ” — a woman just to the right of the soundboard, who could obviously no longer control her excitement, stood up and screamed like a freak. Though it was a bit on the obnoxious side, that scream set off a domino effect that finally ended with the crowd standing up and cheering along like it was in fact a concert, and not just an ambient art-pop performance.
Maybe it was because of that odd crowd dichotomy that the show came across as both a masterful, absolutely inspiring spectacle, and also as bit of a pompous, over-indulgent art display. On the song directly following “All Right,” “Njósnavélin” lead singer/guitarist Jónsi Birgisson started with his signature bowed guitar sound, and it blew into a hedonistic display that many crowds would not have put up with from other bands — and quite frankly, while the solo drew some cheers from the crowd it don’t go over with a bang.
What did go over however were several songs from the band’s latest album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. From the happy, skipping track “Við spilum endalaust” to the quiet, ambient and inspirational “Festival,” Sigus Ros flipped through seven songs from their 11 song album, thoughtfully blending those with material from previous recordings, which a majority of the crowd was most likely not as familiar.
"Gobbledigook" with members of Parachutes on drums
Sigur Rós was joined on stage by Parachutes for their final song before the encore, the rollicking drum-laden “Gobbledigook,” with members of Parachutes holding down the additional percussion duties needed for the piece. But Parachutes weren’t alone in their support. The crowd, which had quite a while earlier decided to treat the evening like a concert and participate, stood together clapping the fast beat of the track in a display that was as much fun to watch as what was happening on stage.
The band ended its show with one more “new” track “Illgresi” followed by their heavy driving and epic rock song “Popplagið.”
Any band could have capped off the Red Rocks season with a good show, but only a band like Sigur Rós, who can be so multi-dimensional, soft and gentle, angry and thunderous could have sent Summer 2008 packing with such fine style and grace.
Can’t wait til next year.