It'd be cool if I could say something about how this band helped me a few years back. Perhaps I was at a new low point in my life‚ emotionally drained because of petty teenaged qualms that will be rendered moot ten years down the road -- that this band's music helped me through it‚ taught me how to pull myself out of a hole‚ tug my heart strings a little bit‚ and start fresh.
That's not the case with me‚ however. My introduction to Sigur Rós was one of minor insignificance‚ so much so that I don't even remember the first time I actually heard them. Perhaps that's why I didn't shed any tears at their concert.
But I've heard that a lot of people do shed tears‚ and I suppose that's understandable‚ because it seems like Sigur Rós' main aim is to get a proper grasp on your heart strings and then pull as hard as they can. The big trademark in their sound is bandleader Jónsi Birgisson's guitar‚ which he plays with a violin bow. When he cajoles his six-string with those big thrusts through his overdriven amp‚ what you get sounds like a whale call shrouded in feedback. He's like a violin maestro playing the aural equivalent of the Hindenburg's disastrous pummel‚ only he's engulfed in the zeppelin's flames as he plays on‚ and in his last moment on Earth‚ aside from continuing to serenade us‚ he sees the lights of heaven shining down on him. It's cheesy‚ yeah‚ but if you've ever heard this band you know what I mean. In other words‚ Sigur Rós like to find a speck of light in their darkness‚ or hint at the possibility of doom that may linger around the corner in a moment of ecstasy. They sing in a made-up language called Hopelandish‚ which makes it clear they want their songs to be completely universal. They try to latch onto any emotion you're feeling and then intensify it tenfold‚ like a choose-your-own-adventure novel filled with nothing but teary-eyed sentiment. So it makes sense that rumors abound of people who have been brought to tears within the first few minutes of them gracing the stage. I've been compelled by those rumors‚ so I made the trek up to Montreal to confirm or debunk the legend of the crybaby Sigur Rós fans.
If the rumors are true‚ I didn't see any signs of it. What I got at the Quai Jacques Cartier in Montreal's Old Port (gorgeous outdoor venue‚ might I add‚ and friggin' huge) was nothing more than just a really good performance. It was tight‚ the energy was high‚ and the lights were trippy as hell. But it wasn't the transcendental forming of the mass consciousness like a few too many overbearing rock critics have made it out to be. Maybe it was because I never really slogged my way into the real meat of the crowd‚ where perhaps the true crybabies were‚ but what I saw was nothing more than a typical rock show audience‚ and I was constantly amazed at the amount of scenesters sipping overpriced beers and smoking joints in their skin tight leggings and clutching onto their girlfriends as they blabbed away in French.
Thankfully‚ I didn't allow myself to give into that grandiloquent crybaby hyping‚ and‚ thus‚ wasn't let down. Because Sigur Rós are fantastic live‚ even if people don't cry. They walked out onstage and without a word slowly eased themselves into a triumvirate of fan favorites: "Svefn-G-Englar‚" "Glósóli‚" and "Ný Batterí." Jónsi's voice was pitch-effing-perfect. When it glided in ethereal wisps through night and into my eardrums‚ I nearly thought he and the rest of the band were all lip synching‚ just like true American pop stars would. Thankfully‚ they do it a little differently up there in Iceland‚ and when they ascended in leaps and bounds up to the climax of "Hafsól‚" Jónsi started banging his guitar with his bow until it splintered apart‚ I knew they weren't fakin' it.
When they came back out for an encore in the form of their latest single‚ "Gooblidigook‚" it was preceded by Jónsi timidly asking us‚ "Can you clap?" We did‚ and it suddenly became the perfect arena rock moment -- thousands of us‚ joining our palms above our heads in triangular symbolic displays of togetherness. Hey‚ I suddenly thought‚ maybe this is what all the fuss was about (but where were the tears?). We clapped harder. They played harder. Us harder‚ they harder‚ harder‚ harder‚ harder. I could feel it‚ we were forming as one‚ it was happening‚ transcend… Boom. Explosion. The song ends and suddenly the band has managed to make the sky cry. With confetti that is. In a near orgasmic outburst the stuff goes flying everywhere. I had a few beers in me‚ so my memory of the moment is a tinge foggy‚ but I think I almost felt a drop squeeze it's way out‚ and that's as close to tears as a manly man like myself ever cares to get. Needless to say‚ I was impressed. Nice work‚ fellas.