MUSE: A review of Sigur Rós at Agganis Arena

By Sydney Moyer, Staff Writer

I walked into Agganis Arena on Tuesday to watch Icelandic post-rock group Sigur Rós, my favorite band to fall asleep to, not knowing what to expect. I had heard many positive reviews of their live act, but wondered how their effervescent, largely foreign sound would work in an arena show.

What I got was an intricate, multi-layered wall of sound that included string and horn sections and the ethereal howl of a bowed guitar that meshed perfectly with frontman Jónsi Birgisson’s haunting falsetto. Sigur Rós is undoubtedly making some of the most original music out there today, and as such I can’t even really accurately compare it to anything I’ve ever heard or seen live, and as many descriptors as I can try to use, I probably won’t be able to do it justice.

The band began their set playing behind a three-sided mesh curtain onto which an eerie light show was projected, a curtain which dramatically fell to reveal the 10+ piece band during “Vaka.” As the band wound their way through a set which largely blended together for me (because I’m basic and I need lyrics in English to distinguish songs from one another), a huge LED display behind them projected ambient lights and swirling projections of smoke, fields, cliffs, water… basically every arty scene in nature that one’s mind would probably conjure while listening to Sigur Rós anyway.

In that sense, the performance was perfect— but it almost felt more like performance art than a concert. Sigur Rós crafts undeniably beautiful music, arguably the best of the ambient/post-rock vein, but for their intricate sound to work, each member of the band had to be so intensely focused on the music that they didn’t leave much room for improvisation or stage presence. In short, it felt completely unlike any concert I had ever been to— I felt more like I was watching someone work to put on an act than witnessing the emotive release that usually accompanies a band’s live performance.

Regardless, it’s incredible that bands like Sigur Rós, who are doing something so original and, let’s just say it, weird, can fill up a venue like Agganis Arena and captivate audiences in a way that only acts like the Stones or The Who could have done thirty years ago. It’s also amazing that lighting and production technology has come so far as to immerse the arena in an otherworldly experience that puts the music itself on a whole other level of performance. I wouldn’t recommend going to see Sigur Rós if you’re looking for a heartfelt, emotive show, but if you’re looking to see incredible talent and a visually stunning light show, I don’t think there’s a better act around.
Music video for the song “Vaka,” by Sigur Rós

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