On the evening of Sept. 20, expectant fans flooded the gates of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, prepared to see the Icelandic post-rock group Sigur Ros. Just one year prior, Sigur Ros hosted a sold-out show at the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage to promote its recently released studio album “Valtari,” which is Icelandic for “Roller.” “Valtari” was the first album they released since the beautifully acclaimed “Meo suo i eyrum vio spilum endalaust” (translation: “With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly”) in 2008.
After their July 2012 show, many Philadelphians heard rumors that the band was breaking up, as it was official that Kjartan Sveinsson, the keyboard player, had left the band and already signed with a new label. There was slim hope for Sigur Ros after the release of “Valtari,” and many listeners did not know in which direction the group would continue with its inspirational music.
However, on June 12,2013, Sigur Ros released “Kveikur” (in English, “Candlewick”), the band’s seventh and most recent studio album. “Kveikur” takes on new attributes that can be described as more aggressive and modern. It is almost as if Orri Dyrason (drums) and Georg Holm (bass) were getting sick of sitting in the dark and yearned for more attention.
The night of the concert was calm, with a beautiful, comfortable temperature. As concertgoers took to their seats, the stage crew set up the final touches. It was an exciting time for everyone as the anticipation to hear the band’s newly released album continued to rise. As the music began, the crowd’s eyes widened with wonder. An immediate difference in the new sound of Sigur Ros was noticed, and most people were enjoying themselves.
The audience, varying in age, remained seated for the entire show. The music that Sigur Ros produces is calming, uplifting and inspirational. This is not a concert where you would find the audience pushing toward the front, frantically dancing and jumping over each other. Everyone seemed to be bridging an emotional connection with the music — the audience was riveted to the stage, silent, still and serene.
Sigur Ros played a wide variety of its music both new and old, but started and finished the set on a calming note, bringing the more aggressive crescendos in the middle.
All 11 performers onstage showed amazing talent. In particular, lead singer Jon Por Birgisson played a variety of instruments, including a bowed guitar. To play this instrument, the artist uses a bow, such as one used for a cello or violin, on the strings of the guitar. Very few artists have ever successfully played the bowed guitar, but artists such as Jimmy Page, Jonny Greenwood and Roger Waters were able to use it successfully in a few produced songs.
Near the end of the night, Birgisson held a note for as long as he could. After about 20 seconds on the note, already cheered on by multiple roars from the crowd, he somehow astonishingly continued to hold the note for what seemed like at least a full minute. Many people looked around at each other as though they could not believe that what they were seeing and hearing was truly a live performance. The talent that Birgisson expressed was exquisite yet eerie.
Overall, the concert was quite amazing. A friend of mine who had never heard of Sigur Ros left the show amazed, energized and extremely happy that he decided to attend. Even Mother Nature seemed to find the show relaxing, as a very large praying mantis landed on the empty seat next to us and remained there for the majority of the show. If Sigur Ros comes back to the Philadelphia area, be sure to catch the inspiring show.