Music is an interesting art form, it has the power to captivate, stoke imagination, say things that words cannot, but most of all it can make a listener feel things that words and visuals could struggle to do. On Monday night, Icelandic symphonic rockers, Sigur Ros, performed their biggest North American headlining date yet at New York’s Madison Square Garden. While the show was not sold out, it was still very packed with fans from all over the world wanting to emote to the sounds and visuals Sigur Ros are known for.
Just before 9pm, the band took the stage but they could not be seen thanks in part to giant curtains that boxed the stage. Opening with the tender “Yfirboro,” and “Ny Batteri,” it was as if Sigur Ros was ready to transcend musical and theatrical boundaries and take the audience on a journey of the mind through their music. As the band was performing inside the curtain box, a strobe light display and visuals projected on the box so the audience had something to look and aid in engaging in the music. After a handful of songs, the curtain fell, exposing the band and their string, brass, and wind ensembles on stage and a giant horizontal screen behind them. Much like on the curtain box, the screen had visuals that ranged from nature to outer space guide the audiences musical journey.
The band, which sings all of their songs in their native tongue, proved that music is our universal language. While many in the audience probably do not speak Icelandic or learned of the country’s language through the music of Sigur Ros and Bjork, it is still enough to give you chills. The amazing musicianship, and the power of singer Jonsi’s falsetto voice that can reach the octaves of some world renowned opera singers and the sustaining power, is something to knock anyone off their feet. His voice is simply its own instrument. With his signature bow on his guitar and abusing the strings like an intense violinist, Jonsi was waving his skinny body in motions that would have broken the backs of some front men. In the near two hours the band was on stage, the power and beauty of Sigur Ros really came alive. They know how to work a giant room and still make every little sound, blip, and note be heard from the first row over to the nosebleeds. There is a reason why these art rockers from Iceland have gained so much world wide attention over the years, it clearly has no effect on what language they are singing in, their music is enough to tell a story and make you feel something.