Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Concert Review: Sigur Ros

Last night was literally the most amazing musical experience I have ever had. B, our friend, and I attended the Sigur Ros show at the Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego. For those who have never heard of Sigur Ros, you can check out one of their videos here. They are from Iceland and don't sing in English - in case you are wondering why you can't understand a word he is saying. I have been listening to them for a few years now and definitely have them on my top list of musicians making music today. When I first heard about the show, I couldn't imagine how they were going to make all those unique sounds that they do. I thought that it might be a stripped down version of what they record. Boy, was I wrong. Not being a music maker, just a music listener, I had no idea what you could do with an electric guitar - highlights include playing it with a violin bow and a drum stick.

The night opened with a performance by Amina, a group of 4 girls who also help out the band on several of their pieces with various instruments including violins, bass, xylophones, bells, etc. They themselves were amazing. Each girl seemed to be able to play any instrument interchangeably and they featured several unconventional instruments including wine glasses and a saw. I was fasinated how they used technology to maximize their ability to make music, but it didn't make the music for them. They had their PowerMac plugged in up front and would use it to loop sounds they would make live while they went on to the next instrument and got that going. Then as the song wound down, they would go back to the original instrument and re-sink into the loop live. It was truly facinating. My favorite part was when two of the girls played a series of bells on a table that looked like front desk bells. They would hit each one with the palm of their hand and often they would cross over each other to get the right notes. They got nearly a standing ovation, something I had never seen happen with an openning act before.

Sigur Ros came on stage a little after 9:00 and played a great assortment of their songs from all their albums. The core band is four boys that were assisted by a fifth every so often. They started and ended the show being behind a nearly sheer screen that, depending on how the lights were set up, you could either see shadows or the actual people. Given the etherial qualities of their music this was very effective and I was covered in goosebumps by the end of the show. At any one point, between 4 and 9 people would be on stage performing. They all were so talented, but I was especially impressed with the drummer. They had his drum set set up at the right side of the stage sideways, so you could see everything he did - he wasn't burried behind everyone in the back. My friend even saw him break one of his drum sticks part way through the show. The music was both tranquil and dynamic. They could play with a fury that was breathtaking. At the end, both the boys and the girls came back on stage for a bow. They were all laughing and smiling with each other and looked like they truly enjoyed what they did for a living - certainly not jaded rock stars. This show has made it to one of my all time favorites, but so unique it is virtually impossible to compare to anything else.

On a side note, the hall seems to use the same usher for concerts like these as they do to the regular symphony performances - since they were a bunch of older ladies in coats, not the kids and bouncers in "EVENT STAFF" yellow parkas you usually see at shows. So, I often wonder what the ushers must think of these "new fangled rock bands".

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