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Concert review: Sigur Rós performs in Ottawa

Adam Feibel | Fulcrum Staff

JÓNSI BIRGISSON SPOKE only four words throughout his band’s two-hour set in Ottawa, but Sigur Rós let the music speak for itself. The Icelandic band performed to about 3,000 fans at Scotiabank Place on March 29, the group’s first time back in the capital since 2005.

Sigur Rós has gained a dedicated following of admirers who have become enthralled by the band’s experimental and ethereal sound over the course of its nearly 20-year career. The band—consisting of core members Birgisson, Georg Hólm, and Orri Páll Dýrason, along with an accompanying string section—gave a performance that was both soothing and engaging and created an experience well suited to the group’s high regard among fans. The well-rounded performance struck a good balance of the band’s upbeat and celebratory songs like “Sæglópur” and “Glósóli” along with more sombre and desolate tracks like “Vaka” and “E-Bow.”

The band played from behind an all-enclosing translucent white curtain at the beginning of its set, making for captivating visual effects using light and shadow. The curtain finally dropped about 12 minutes in during the dramatic climax of the second song of the night, “Ný Batterí.” The rest of the evening featured visual displays that were modest and fitting to the band’s unique and distinct sound.

Lead singer Birgisson brought his trademark falsetto flawlessly to the fore, particularly during “Festival,” as he held a single note for what had to have been close to a minute. The mind-blowingly impressive vocal feat prompted the audience to cheer not once, not twice, but three times as jaws dropped further and further to the floor and surely left some wondering if he would ever breathe again at all.

Sigur Rós is the kind of band that people will either love or simply not understand. But in either case, one can’t help but appreciate the simple but beautiful multisensory experience that would make for a night to remember for just about anyone.