THE FORTITUDE MUSIC HALL, BRISBANE
TUESDAY, AUGUST 9 2022
Words elude when having to describe a Sigur Rós show. It's a transcendent experience that's equal parts sedative and visceral. Brisbane is the first stop on their Australian tour, which serves no album promotional campaign, but does include new songs and a post-COVID opportunity to see incredible music from the other side of the world. Tonight's show offers a generous catalogue-encompassing helping, spread across two sets with the largest portions being lifted from ( ) and Takk... respectively.
Clearly, the band's leadership remains in the hands of Jónsi, and the man remains an unparalleled and seemingly humble revelation in modern music. `He flips between instruments and stage positioning, as all band members tend to do throughout the set. Of course, his trademark stance is up-front, eyes closed, guitar in hand as he saws away with a bow creating mind-blowing noises that don't actually seem possible from the instrument. At any given moment, the band can flip from powerful avant-guarde levels of My Bloody Valentine wall-of-guitar rock to more subdued beauty.
Set 1 is made up of the softer kind, the meditative sounds that are sometimes so brittle that it feels as if a misplaced cheer, or even a slight sniffle, could derail the fragile beauty being executed. It's the opening 'Vaka' and 'Fyrsta' from their flat-out best record ( ) which immediately lulls the audience into an hour and 15 minute trance-like state. Surprisingly, the excellent 'Svefn-g-englar' appears very early in the evening, Jónsi's vocal so ethereal that only a slight crack in his voice wasn't even a bad thing, more so it’s proof that the man is in fact human after all. A new song (apparently titled 'Gold 2') appears mid-way and slips in between 'Ny Batteri' and 'Fljótavik', and sounds brilliant and on par with the classics in the set, fanning the flames of excitement for the band's new music later this year, their first since 2013.
Tears are flowing freely throughout the audience, lots of people have their head bowed and eyes closed in an attempt to memorise a snapshot of the atmosphere and the music performed before us. A dazzling light show happens behind the band who largely appear as not much than a silhouette throughout the set.
After a short intermission, the group is back on stage for another hour and 15 set, this one more intense, with bigger and brighter lighting and a louder and heavier collection of songs. Jónsi extends his bow skyward, falling into the likes of 'Glósoli' and 'E-Bow' straight-up, and finally giving the drums a chance to be executed fully. In contrast to Set 1, it's a cacophony of lights and crashing instrumentals throughout this one, yet it still somehow manages to borderline on a feeling of walking towards the glowing gates of heaven. A second new song is played ('Gold 4’), again, a brilliant piece which has the the audience hanging on still enraptured, with a chance to be more vocal now, and remain in awe of every movement, every moment that the band creates. At this point, it's still a marvel to watch four individuals, all masters of their own domain, creating such a huge, cinematic experience. Appearing later in the set, 'Andvari' builds from spacious, plucked guitar into a heady string climax, while the likes of 'Festival' and its quiet organ intro gives way to galloping drums that only paves way for their finishing with two of their most powerful pieces - 'Kveikur' and 'Poppalgiõ.
Nearly three hours is a tall order for a school night in, frankly, a ridiculously sweaty Fortitude Music Hall, but it displays the sheer power of the band and their ability to hold onto an audience to this extent, it's borderline hypnosis and a strong reminder of the band's immense originality. It's also bewildering to witness a group of people from Brisbane, Australia embrace these Icelandic heroes this deeply, hearing them clumisily attempt to name their favourite songs and generally form words that don't truly sum up what they just witnessed. Given the band's lyrics are mostly Icelandic alongside their own made-up Hopelandic language, it goes a way to show that the music of Sigur Rós is foreign and univerasal all at once. It isn't so much about how you understand it with your head, but more about just how much is felt with your heart. How many bands can you say that about in modern music? It's clear they exist on their own moody plain of ambience and continue to blow minds almost three decades later.