Music review: Sigur Ros, Brixton Academy, London

5.00

 

As their set begins at Brixton’s theatrical O2 Academy, it is little wonder that the post-rock of Sigur Ros has found its way on to numerous movie soundtracks and the small screen.

Silhouetted by an iridescent white silk-screen of their own, shrouding the stage, the band’s aesthetic is as mesmerizing as their soundscapes, which fall like light rain on the still and silent crowd.

New track Yfirbord is an acoustic shimmer which sees Jonsí Birgisson’s ethereal vocals and ambient guitar-bowing complemented by images of nature and flesh projected in white light onto the gauze. The effect, as always with Sigur Ros, is epic.

As the curtains fall for Vaka (Untitled #1), nigh on a dozen musicians are revealed, with a brass and string section adding extra majesty to the efforts of the Icelandic trio (now minus keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, who left the band in January after 15 years).

The oceanic themes of Sæglópur and Fljótavík are explored with persistent hissing cymbals and deep-blue imagery respectively, bringing an icy chill to the sense of awe in the engrossed the crowd - surely one of the quietest to have filled the Academy in recent memory.

This being their first UK tour in five years, the set is a retrospective of the band’s career, with the atmospherics of Varúð (‘Caution’) being one of the few tracks offered from last year’s underwhelming album Valtari. But underwhelming Varúð is not.

A cheer greets the band’s most commercially successful song, Hoppipolla, though, in a telling sign of the devotion of those in the crowd, it is not the loudest of the evening.

The set is a masterclass and each track is performed with a flawlessness as haunting as the music itself. Sigur Ros have always been at pains to present their vision of musical perfection, and this evening is no different – though they save a twist in the tale for last, with new track Kveikur.

A far rockier offering that evokes the ghost of Muse’s past (when they were actually worth listening to), it marks a distinct and exciting change of direction for a band that has for so many years stuck – however impressive it may be – to a formula.

“2013 promises to be an interesting year in the Sigur Rós universe” the band promised in a post on their website ahead of the European tour, encouraging fans to come to their live shows. They are certainly are delivering on that vow.

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