Live Review: Sigur Rós - The Grand Ballroom @ Manhattan Center - New York, NY
Fri, 20 Jun 2008 10:44:11
"Why are you so quiet?" asked one Sigur Rós fan as the band switched instruments between songs at The Grand Ballroom, an odd, cavernous space seven floors above Manhattan Center's more commonly used Hammerstein Ballroom.
Before anyone could answer such an asinine question, another seated concertgoer ignored the situation at hand and simply howled, "We love you!"
Sigur Ros (photo by: Andrew Parks)
Way to break the ice, dude. A minute ago, this sold-out room was nothing but patient and polite, including a part where Iceland's finest freaks paused mid-song for a good 30 seconds and no one dared to break the silence, let alone laugh nervously. Now we're suddenly a sea of ecstatic cheerleaders, happy to be over a serious case of the Mondays and among friends. And who can blame us? This is a Sigur Rós show we're talking about here—a life-changing 'event' in many people's eyes, not a run-of-the-mill excuse to chug beer and yell "Free Bird!" Which isn't to suggest that two hours of ethereal music, delivered in the alien, imaginary language of "Hopelandic," was anything but a thrill ride.
Far from it, actually. As a friend of ours commented, "They could have stopped at an hour and a half and left me satisfied." Satisfied and emotionally drained, as if we'd been shown the light and had it taken away from us a second later. Instead, Sigur Rós treated their set like a series of movements at a rock opera—a rock opera told through minimalist stage props (handfuls of confetti, as if someone had gutted a piñata; glowing orbs that brought to mind an evolved version of the lighting section at Urban Outfitters) and lots of lyrics that use the word "you" in some manner ("you sat alone by the fire," "you suffer, alone" and other forlorn phrases that may or may not have actually been uttered since Sigur's shapeless lyrics are "open to interpretation").
Sigur Ros (photos by: Andrew Parks)
With an ebb and flow approach like this, the evening was bound to have its highlights and its total bathroom breaks. We actually caught a glimpse of an Olsen twin—massive bodyguard in tow and all—during one of the latter slower-than-sludge passages. As for the points that made everyone sit and stare wide-eyed, they included the epileptic climax of "Hafsol" (talk about a sudden light show!), one of the glacial and gorgeous untitled tracks off ( ), and the sing/clap-along section of "Gobbledigook," which sounds like a lost Animal Collective track despite its status as the lead single on Sigur Rós' new album, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust.
Overall, the night was as majestic as you might imagine—a spell that refused to be broken, howling and all.