"Vast and Epic": Sigur Ros at the Patriot Centre March 24 2013

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Sigur Ros started their North American tour in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the lovely Patriot Centre. When I first bought these tickets, I told friends that I got seats instead of general admission. They said to me, in relief, “Thank god, I don’t think I could stand that long at a Sigur Ros concert.” For some concerts, such a line would be blasphemous because sitting down would indicate that you were not entirely into the concert you paid for. But Sigur Ros is different. Their epic post rock music requires time to distill. The set list from this concert had no songs shorter than six minutes.

Vast: that could be the best word to describe the show. The stage was initially set up so that massive curtains blocked the view of the stage from all three sides.  Tim Hecker, the opener, (who on a separate note, made amazing ambient music) even had to play behind the screen. There was this mysterious aura about the set before Sigur Ros took the stage. When the Icelandic trio did come on, they came on with a full band of backup musicians. On their last tour, I saw them in Seattle and they only had the four main members. That show was quite stripped down and raw. One could hear just how incomplete some of the songs were without the full compliment of instruments.  With a complete set of musicians this time, the songs sounded like they did on the album.

The first song, “Yfirborð”, was extremely electronic. I was not sure how I felt about the song. Regardless, it did build up to the following song, Ný Batterí”. Let me note that the curtains were still up. In fact, they had projections on the screen that complimented the giant shadows of Jonsi and Georg extremely well. For those who don’t know, “Ný Batterí” is a song that builds up gradually to this explosive climax. It was at this climax that all three screens dropped down to show the stage. This brought a huge cheer from the crowd at the Patriot Centre as if the George Mason basketball team that usually play there just won a big game.

Interestingly, Sigur Ros chose to play a quiet and reflective song, “Vaka” immediately following. It brought a majority of the crowd into a dream-like state. Not quite awake, not quite asleep, the audience absorbed the post rock beauty of Sigur Ros. It wouldn’t bore you to sleep; it is beautiful music that dull your senses. Occasionally, one would wake up to a smatter of sound from their louder songs, such was the case with “Sæglópur”. This “half dream-like” state and the occasional wakeup made for a surreal feeling. Every time the music would explode, the crowd would release a wave of tension. I desperately wanted to mimic one guy off to the side who just stood and raised his hands in triumph.

As the band played each song, there was a wide screen that featured videos that fit with the theme. For “Vaka”, they had a dark photo that moved a bit here, a bit there. For “Hoppípolla”, a music video of old people happily jumping into puddles. I found myself at the start of each song trying to decipher the images on the screen. And that made for a fun side distraction during the slower parts of the setlist.

To say the concert was good would be an incredible understatement. The concert was epic; it was a grandiose showing of music that very few bands or artists can achieve. They were worth the somewhat expensive tickets ($60 per). As we left the Patriot Centre, my two companions and myself were relatively quiet. We usually have music on the radio when I drive, but as I pulled up Spotify I could not think of anything to play. I asked them for suggestions and my friend Luke said, “I think silence is best. Nothing can compare to what we just heard.”

-Sam Lu

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