Sigur Ros, Iceland's favourite musical sons, played the first of their two sell-out London gigs at Alexandra Palace last Thursday. The band filled the venerable old pavilion with their panoramic sound to the delight of all present.
Sigur Ros have long been exporters of atmospheric post-rock that provides a soundscape that enchants and enthrals in equal measure. The music plays like an almost classical soundtrack of the band's emotions, being sometimes moody, sometimes joyful but always with an underlying innocence driven by the language of the lyrics – a mix of Icelandic and the made-up Hopelandic – and the ethereal falsetto voice of lead singer Jonsi Birgisson.
The set list provided a mix of old favourites and newer songs from their recent album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, switching from driving guitars, marching bass and percussion to moments of delicate piano. Highlights of the main set were old favourites such as the brooding opener, "Svefn-g-englar", "Sæglópur", with its piano and xylophone introduction rising to swirling guitar reverb, and the escalating guitar explosion of "Hafsól".
New songs also stood out, such as "Við spilum endalaust", with its bouncing beat, and the main set closer, "Gobbledigook", with the band accompanied by the support act, For a Minor Reflection, as drummer boys and the crowd being covered with colourful confetti. But the highlight was at the end of "Festival", when the full quality of Birgisson's ethereal voice was on display, as he delivered a pure note for what seemed like an eternity that hovered with cherubic beauty in the air.
The concert closed with "Popplagið" ("Untitled VIII"), which mesmerised the crowd until its final chords, when the band disappeared under a blizzard of white confetti. The song, with its rhythmical deep bass, thumping drums and echoing guitars, gave an early-Pink Floyd feel to the climax.
If there was any disappointment it was in their best-known song, "Hoppípolla", which felt tired from over-familiarisation and from the missing horn and string sections that have been a regular feature of recent tours.
Following this excellent show, the band can return home in the knowledge that they continue to build on their reputation and popularity, which, given their country's recent troubles, make them Iceland's most bankable asset.
The writer was the successful bidder to review a gig of their choice in The Independent's 2007 charity auctionReuse content