Sigur Rós (Berlin Festival, 07/09/12)

it’s been days i’ve been wondering how to start, or even write, this review. how to find the proper words to explain the tremendous experience i had. the happiness i felt, the peacefulness that arouse during the concert, the tears i shed on Í Gær, the gooseflesh that seized me over sixty minutes.

ok, let’s give it a try. gooseflesh is already back anyway.

the frog was a bit upset after the first hour spent at berlin festival. both concerts of Lay Low and Of Monsters and Men were already over. the Icelandic breath the frog was expecting was now polluted, and disappointment was showing up. but there was no reason at all to be in a bad mood. i was at berlin festival for two major reasons: Sigur Rós and Nicolas Jaar. and by a curious coincidence, both groups were scheduled to play on the same day at the very same time! the frog was kind of frustrated but determined: Sigur Rós first.

it may sound surprising, but i had never seen the band live before. i just don’t know why exactly but this band belongs to the faves of the pond, and i’ve always dreamt of their concerts, especially after the screening of Heima.

so, we are here, with my gig frog, listening to Ghostpoet quietly. well, if the gig frog is quiet, i’m not what-we-can-call calm. checking every five minutes the time, having a look at the main stage every second to evaluate the good moment to leave. frogs and toads start to head to the main stage (it took me five minutes to do likewise, in a middle of a song, as if there was some urge). i’m terribly nervous, worried to be far from the stage. and with good reason: when i arrived, the first part of the venue is full, overcrowded.

needless to say that when the frog is terribly nervous, it has to let it go and get into action. i therefore plunge into the crowd and shove my way past right in the middle. the horizon is clogged with giants. e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. where are the dwarves? where is the damn dwarves’ shoal? nevertheless, the frog’s anxiety subsides as it starts pouring.

a real impatience sweeps through the audience. a few claps here and there. i’m a bit confused, i just don’t know how long i’ve been waiting here. the drizzle stops. until joyful howling inflame the crowd. Sigur Rós are here, just in front of me [but i don’t see anything]. it’s pouring again and i’m worn out, excitation and nervousness have drained me. i’m just violently happy but unable to express it. i’d like to call my sailor toad to tell it i miss it, but i can’t.

the first note of xylophone finishes me off. my, oh my! they’re going to start with Í Gær. my goodness, they’re opening the show with my favourite song… the frog chokes with emotions and feels suddenly the need to call its sailor toad. it starts raining and a wave of fans turns into a swimming pond.

the moment i’m waiting for is almost there. guitars are going to overheat and Jónsi’s voice will go off to heaven. it really rains and emotions are palpable under our raincoats and the umbrella which opens up in front of us, a few meters ahead.
i’m trembling all over, whereas my wet fingers manage to catch my phone, slipping on the display because of the rain. the toad’s number rings, guitars are close to blow up, i blubber in silence, please-hold-the-line, my arm reaches the sky (with a ladder), and guitars begin to roar. my tears of over-happiness mix up with the rain, i’m tongue-tied until the end of the song. i eventually manage to say a few confused words to my toad and try to calm down. i notice the umbrella.

the concert can now really begins. Ný Batterí comes to life slowly and swallows the tiny rest of energy i have, mostly due to the furious drums and the supporting brass section. i can now loose my mind.

Í Gær
Ný Batterí
Með Blóðnasir

if by any chance you don’t know Sigur Rós yet, you may not know how lucky you are. so many great songs to discover, so many emotions to go through. heaven is waiting for you.

Sigur Rós is an atmospheric/aerial/classical/post-rock band coming from Iceland. their name originates Jónsi’s sister name, Sigurrós, who was born on the very same day Sigur Rós saw the light.

alongside Jónsi Birgisson(vocals and guitar), you have Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson who plays drums, Georg Hólm (bass) and Orri Páll Dýrason (keyboards). and Amiina, since 2002, who has been recording the strings arrangements on their albums and touring with them.

Sigur Rós is well-known for Jónsi’s falsetto, his use of volenska and a bowed guitar.
songs are almost only either in volenksa or icelandic. the only song written in english is All Right, on their fifth studio album Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (lovely title isn’t?! it means more or less “With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly”).
volenska refers to this way of singing, which lyrics are intelligible, whereas playing the guitar with a bow produces a very special sound, which, for sure, would seduce a herd of whales.

but let’s go back to the main stage of the berlin festival. and to the umbrella.
on Glosoli, the toad on my left starts yelling at the umbrella politely. some unconscious solidarity sees the light. a group of batrachians yell at the umbrella. no answer. Jonsi sings, it’s so beautiful.

a toad chucks projectiles at the umbrella, supported by yells of protestation, divided between hilarity and irritation. Jonsi sings but this umbrella obstructs the view and the concert. impatience is at its peak until a toad decide to slice open the crowd and punch the umbrella. clapping broke out. Glosoli comes to an end a few minutes later. clapping again.

each song is a real masterpiece that makes your realise that Sigur Rós must be seen on stage, simply because you will never ever be able to reproduce at home such a powerful and excellent sound, loaded with genuine live emotions. i manage to catch sight of the videos behind the band, what a perfect visual poetry to this great music.

this concert is a real escape in terms of time and space. even when the rain finally stops. Varúð gives unspoken evidence of the crowd’s sympathy. this song (from Valtari) is so soft, so aerial, so delicate, that the frog keeps its eyes closed until the last note.

when i wake up, i feel so good, so full of love. i notice (half conscious) that i’m completely unwound. my head slightly leans on the left, in the very vicinity of the toad who is close to me, and whose head actually leans on the right. we look at each other with some sudden tenderness, freshly back from the moon, and we shyly smile at each other. until we realise that we are that close, that our lips could almost touch. notwithstanding, an outpouring of happiness and joy originated from the audience brings us back on earth violently, and we instantly laugh politely, drawing aside with sparkling eyes and an embarrassed smile.
i guess that’s what we can call the Sigur Rós experience.

the band almost doesn’t say a word during the one-hour concert. i’d like to stay here forever, packed like sardines in a crushed tin box. i feel so good, and so stoned, that i could go to bed directly.
(i’d like to stress, to my dear readers’ attention, that i hadn’t consumed any drugs or alcoholic beverages, before or during the show.)

when the band vanishes from the stage (I can see them disappearing, hurrah!) without saying a word, everyone knows this-is-over but no one moves. after a few seconds of a monumental clapping session, the complete band (eleven of them) comes back clapping heartily on stage to… thank us. the frog chokes again, i’m *** happy.

this is one of the greatest concerts i had in my life. and there’s more to come.
takk fyrir Sigur Rós…