Sigur Rós has a way of forging a visceral connection with its fans. That unique relationship often starts with the Icelandic band’s peculiar if beautiful records, and it is then set in concrete via the band’s intense live shows.
On Saturday at Broomfield’s 1stBank Center, the band proved its ability to be as emotively powerful as it is bafflingly overwhelming. As the group played a set of material that lovingly favored some of its earlier albums, the 10-piece set up treated the pin-drop-quiet audience to arrangements that were significantly more lush than its records — and simultaneously more imperfect than previous shows we’ve seen them perform.
The lushness came into play in late-song musical break-downs and graphic, explicit harmonies, which often leapt from a single voice to a whole chorus of child-like vocals – providing a potent juxtaposition against Jonsi’s ever-feminine vocals. It’s hard to envision Sigur Rós’ music any more powerful than it already is, but they truly took it to a different level of engagement and emotion on Saturday.
But perhaps even more enjoyable than the songs’ newfound lushness were the many imperfections that dotted the performance – clumsy fingers on this piano part, a vocal misstep in another song, an out-of-breath flautist in yet another. The slip-ups hardly took away from the performance, rather they served as indelibly honest reminders that this massive symphonic-pop creation was happening live and in front of you – one time only.
Amid the iconic piano introduction to “Hoppípolla,” as the band becomes an orchestra and as a simple ballad becomes a triumphant, symphonic epic, somebody’s fingers betrayed their brain. But rather than flinch, it brought us in even more – because the band thankfully wasn’t playing with a backing track of music. (If they were, it wasn’t too significant.)
During an older song, “Olsen Olsen,” the bass and drums bring the song into its melodic form with a bassline that sounds like vintage R.E.M. And as the song turns into the opposite of vintage R.E.M., the flute (or piccolo?) solo arrives with a lack of breath potentially inspired by our Mile High air, adding a different rhythm and feeling to a solo that has existed in our minds for nearly 15 years – and again, it’s more exhilarating than exasperating.
We go to concerts to see and hear live music, warts and all, and in the case of Sigur Rós, those warts are an intoxicating addition to the perfection that exists on the record.
Unfortunately the venue didn’t contain the inherent magic of the music as a smaller seated theater would have. Granted the 1stBank Center has its days — the sound at Leonard Cohen’s show there last year was stunning — Saturday was not one of them. It doesn’t help that this band’s music pops best in a venue such as Denver’s Paramount Theatre or New York City’s Beacon Theatre, two venues where we’ve witnessed life-affirming concerts from Sigur Rós.
Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.