Live review: Jónsi @ the Paramount TheatreBy , Lisa Kennedy and Lisa Kennedy | April 23rd, 2010 | 2 comments
Jón Þór Birgisson, nicknamed Jónsi (pronounced yawn-si), and his four bandmates, including long-time collaborator/boyfriend Alex Somers, walked softly onto an elaborate, transmogrified set of hulked-out glass and scorched metal. Taking up their instruments, which had been scattered about, they began by emulating the sounds of a gently tolling music box.
Dressed as part-bird, part-noble savage, Jónsi performed his newly released album, “Go,” with perfection. Piercing the quiet of the room with a hymn-like tenor and transitioning seamlessly into a series of cooing falsettos, he punctuated each song with his own made-up “Hopelandic” language.
The stage, operatic in its grandeur, morphed into something appropriately different as each song progressed. Harnessing all the Elements, the visuals unfolded to match the emotionally resonant music. One moment, a scratchy-film played atop a scrim, depicting kinetic taxidermy sketches of a deer fleeing a wolf chase. Next, rainwater trickled down to scar the soot-stained panes of glass. Then, the panes became vessels that bowled over with agitated water. Behind them, animals ran, flowers unfurled from their pods, and nature took hold.
All the while, the festooned band members rotated and squatted, tinkering with instruments ranging from a harmonium to a giant xylophone to a mysterious light box. The crowd watched on as these willowy Icelanders emitted ethereal tones through slivers of light and shadow. The formidable exception was the drummer,
Samuli Kosminen Thorvaldur Thór Thorvaldsson, whose ardor was matched only by his incredible intuition and percussive versatility.
The three-song encore closed with an extended rendition of the somber track,
“Tornado” “Grow Till Tall.” As the song began, puffs of snow fell gently, but as the song progressed, the spaces in between the flakes grew scant and whipping rain and wind set in. The song ended in a frenzy of guitar and drumwork while the battled storm raged out of control, sending transposed debris flying furiously about.
The effect was profound.
Jónsi succeeds so thoroughly because his music is a direct reflection of the environment in which he grew up. Iceland has a sordid history of human brutality and destruction that is forced to coexist alongside its off-the-charts geographical splendor. Jónsi is telling us the story of what it is like to live in this paradoxical environment. By drawing us in to this tender passion play, through his intoxicating vocals, dreamlike soundscapes and universal themes of love and fear, he makes faithful stewards of us all.
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