Jónsi @ The Vogue -- 04/06/10

One of my four favourite bands is Sigur Rós, so when I found out that lead singer Jónsi was not only releasing a solo album, but coming to town, too, it was a no brainer. I got tickets before I heard a single note of the album. I'd seen Sigur Rós twice before, and both shows are among my favourite concerts I have seen, so he kinda had a high standard set for him.

At about 8, a lone gentleman took the stage with guitar in hand. For a brief moment, I thought he was a roadie, especially with his extremely long hair, but it turns out he was the opening act, Death Vessel. I wasn't sure what to expect from a band named Death Vessel, but Joel Thibodeau (it's one of those One Guy With A Band Name deals) showed us a name does not make a band with his folksy, almost blues-y guitar playing and soprano voice (which was a little bit of a surprise). Even though he didn't really say anything to the audience -- only when he had two songs left, he thanked us for coming and Jónsi for having him, and didn't even say his name -- he still managed to captivate the crowd. I am pretty interested to hear some of his recorded stuff, to see if it matches the minimalistic set he played, or if it has more musicians to it.

And then was Jónsi. Coming out first with just himself and one other band member, at the xylophone, he started off with a beautifully slow song, "Stars In Still Water", before the rest of the band came out for "Hengilás", which was the first major showcase of the stage setup. There was a giant canvas sheet hung at the back of the stage and panes of glass on either side, first with alternating video of Jónsi and the band, but then with some still images of animals and fire. During the third song, "Icicle Sleeves", there was an animation of a wolf hunting a deer, and as the music grew in intensity, the two animals clashed and the curtain dropped, to reveal another worn down glass structure, with plants growing on and behind it, giving it a vaguely apocalyptic feel to it. As they went on, there were some more projections on the glass sections, which was a really cool touch. But nifty visuals does not a show make. Luckily, the music was excellent too.
"Tornado", one of my favourites off the album, was one of the first high energy songs, and the twitchiness (for lack of a better word) worked really well live, and the pair of "Go Do" and "Boy Lilikoi" were excellent together, with the latter being quite powerful. "K12" had the band all together on the side of the stage, around the piano and a second drum set, with some cool back-lighting, and the following, as-yet-unnamed song, had Jónsi by himself at the piano, in silhouette by a single light, which was a great image. But then I'm a sucker for that kind of lighting and imagery (see above picture for me trying to capture it with my sub-par cell phone camera). The main set ended with "Around Us", which had some cool vocal looping trickery at the end.
During the break the stage was light up by flittering lights as fireflies, and the three song encore started with another new song, then Jónsi got a very plantlike hat/headdress for "Animal Arithmetic", which was incredibly energetic, and would have been the best song of the night... were it not for "Grow Till Tall".
The song started off really slow and calm, and soft rain (or snow) was projected onto the glass. Then as the song grew from a soft sprinkle to a typhoon, so too did the rain and flickering lights for the storm. Any description here will not do justice to the performance of the song, but it was possibly the most moving and emotionally draining songs I have ever seen performed live. It was damn near indescribable, and something that I will not ever forget.

I left the Vogue in complete awe of the show, and while it is still too early to call it, I am pretty sure that this is going to be the show that all others need to measure up to, for the rest of the year.

stars in still water, hengilás, icicle sleeves, kolniður, tornado, saint naive, sinking friendships, go do, boy lilikoi, k12, [new piano song], around us.
(encore) [jonsi new guitar song], animal arithmetic, grow till tall.
this is courtesy of Jónsi's website, which has a page for each show on the tour and includes the setlist, as well as photos, reviews and comments of the show. It was really cool, and a feature I wish more bands would implement. Check out the page for this show here.