Sigur Rós – Bristol Summer Series, Harbourside, Bristol, UK

Thursday 23rd June 2016

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It could be said that Sigur Rós are ideally suited to this location. A stage on the banks of the tidal River Avon facing an impressive classical crescent building. The stage is set beneath a turret and weathervane, and on the river beyond, boats are moored and redundant cranes reach upwards. The clouds have cleared leaving a blue sky, in which the band have seemingly attracted several hundred Herring Gulls which wheel and swoop above the crowd.

It’s been a good week for Sigur Rós fans – a twenty four hour slow TV event of a trip around Iceland’s Route One soundtracked by the band to celebrate the summer solstice, a brand new song and video surfaced called Óveður and the world tour rumbles into the UK, including a much anticipated show at Glastonbury Festival.

There is an odd feeling about this tour. There is no new album to promote, so you could be forgiven for thinking this is some kind of ‘greatest hits’ deal. The only new material tonight is Óveður, which is a muted start delivered from the the back of the stage. The light show, impressive as it is, doesn’t work brilliantly in glaring sunshine. It’d just the three of them no string section, no brass. It’s not the most auspicious of starts.

Starálfur has been dusted off for this stripped back tour, but arrives too early and is almost missed by the restless crowd, some of whom have hardly even noticed the band’s arrival on stage. Even the seagulls can be heard squawking over the precious and fragile Starálfur.

Nothing really changes until the middle section of a slightly reworked Sæglópur, in which the band come to the front of the stage in an explosion of light and sound. Someone found the volume dial and turned it up. It’s a welcome change of pace, and grabs the attention of the crowd who momentarily stop chatting and munching burgers. Glosoli follows with a rich familiarity and accompanied by eerie shots of Iceland.

Festival was designed for such occasions and fairly bounces along. Yfirborð makes an appearance with its undercurrent of gaping alien-like noises. It’s not until Hafsól with its vibrating refrain that the band start to relax. It’s taken a while, but I swear I see a smile from Georg. Jonsí plays it as intensively as ever, often bent double, and even ruining a bow completely as the song reaches crescendo.

A brief but wonderful encore ensues. It is the traditional closer, Popplagið, and it is completely perfect. Jonsí delivers most his vocals with his forehead pressed against the mic, as if his thoughts could some how be transmitted out to the crowd. In a way, they do. Everyone is transfixed with Jonsí, but actually Orri and Georg are responsible for this driving, pulsing staple of the set. In any case, the new three piece set up makes the Sigur Rós sound more raw, more urgent somehow. By the time Popplagið implodes into feedback and and the lights flicker out, Sigur Rós have done their work here. The boys return for a celebratory bow and then they are gone.

Afterwards I find that a seagull has left me a little reminder of the concert on the back of my jacket. It’s not the only reminder. Happily, my ears are still ringing with the sounds of Popplagið.

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