On a not-so-summers evening on June 23, Sigur Rós played on the banks of the River Avon at the Bristol Amphitheatre on the second day of the annual Bristol Summer Series – joining the likes of James Bay, The Last Shadow Puppets, and Catfish and the Bottlemen. The stage, set in the crescent of the Lloyds building, and surrounded by boats and old cranes of industrial heritage looked impressive even without the Sigur Rós trio framed by the yet-to-start lightshow.
It was the evening of the EU referendum and the band took to the stage at 9PM in front of a charged and hopeful sold-out Bristol crowd – a crowd that could have been forgiven for being disappointed by support act James Canty who failed to raise the spirits of the spectators with his ever-so-slightly whiny lyrics, while looking a tad lost on such a large stage.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, as a football fan I feel the need to draw a comparison to Iceland’s performance against England at the Euros on Monday. Hopes for England’s (James Canty’s) performance were high yet, in the end, anticlimactic and dull – full of failed passes and wayward crosses, whereas it was Iceland’s (Sigur Rós’) performance that saw them net two past a team that was just not up to scratch.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the post-game analysis- I mean gig review.
While it was a strange time for the band to be embarking on the UK leg of their world tour, what with there being no new material other than the new Óveður and the video that surfaced with it, it most definitely did not seem like a greatest hits money-maker event. Neither did it feel like a Glastonbury warm up set ahead of their show at Worthy Farm, with the trio going all out for every song.
it definitely did not feel like a Glastonbury warm up set ahead of their much anticipated show at Worthy Farm
With Jonsi, Goggi, and Orri all on stage (Jonsi with his traditional cello-bowed guitar playing to create that distinctive Sigur Rós sound), it was always going to be a great gig, and even though I don’t claim to be their most devout fan, they blew me away with their anthemic and ethereal music, hypnotising me with Jonsi’s delicate vocals and their signature aural delight.
Kicking off the evening with their latest track, Óveður, Sigur Rós ticked off a selection of old and new material. Giving us not even one touring anecdote or second of gig chit-chat, Sigur Rós were here to provide one thing – a beautifully engineered wall of sound. Throughout the next three or four songs (really, can I be expected to name the songs?) I distinctly remember looking over the crowd and being amazed at the stillness (apart from that lone bopper that just did not stop moving. If that was you, bravo). Some may have mistaken this for boredom, but to me it was more a case of the crowd being transfixed at what they were witnessing.
Giving us not one touring anecdote or second of gig chit-chat, Sigur Rós were here to provide one thing – a beautifully engineered wall of sound
While they did not play Hoppipolla, the commercially successful song that you’ve seen in every other BBC documentary or tearful advert, I know that the crowd were not disappointed. Leaving the stage for a split-second after the set ended on Hafsól, Sigur Rós reappeared with the traditional finisher of Popplagio before returning for a bow and then disappearing for good after rapturous applause.