Review of Sigur Ros live at Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 5th march 2013

Although Sigur Ros have never been anything less than a great live band their current incarnation is their strongest for over a decade, since the two year period that bookended their landmark release ( ) in 2002. Like it, their current tour finds them at a creative peak, happy to give as much focus to unreleased material, if not moreso, than the album you would typically expect them to arrange a set around.

Sigur Ros

It also sees them partially regain the veil of mystery that made their music so alien and irresistible before they appeared on big-budget blockbusters and all manner of daytime television. Their stage show is much bleaker than the technicolour extravagance of their Meo suo í eyrum vio spilum endalaust & Hvarf/Heim tours, and it is also much more intense and overwhelming. A physical veil shrouds the band for the entirety of the first two tracks, dropping at the climax of Agaetis Byrjun's ' 'Ny Batteri',and projections, smoke machines and lasers further obscure them. 

On their new material the Icelandic trio's sound has re-evolved to become as equally foreboding as their live show, particularly on the mammoth 'Brennstein', perhaps the heaviest song they have written in nearly twenty years of existence and certainly one of their most effecting, with a pulsing overdriven bassline and pounding drums that bare the echoes of trance, giving way to swathes of brass and strings that die the feedback of Jonsi's trademark bowed guitar. It is wrought with a nervous energy the band hinted at on Valtari but never fully explored, and it is instantly more powerful than 7/8ths of their latest full-length, the sole exception being 'Varun', which is incidentally the only track taken from it that the band choose to play live. Jonsi has stated recently that their next album will be the 'Anti-Valtari', and it is already shaping up to be a step-up from its ambient-leaning predecessor.

Elsewhere in their set Agaetis Byrjun, ( ) & Takk are represented roughly equally, and remain for the most part true to their recorded forms, yet even here it seems the triumverate's more cloistering moments, 'Vaka', 'Glossoli' and perennial finale 'Untitled 8' have been chosen to represent a new chapter on from their recent dalliances. There are the occasional moments of respite however, notably on 'Svefn-G-Englar' and the anthemic 'Hoppipolla', even if they serve to accentuate the hushed tone of the rest of their two hour set. 

It is here where you notice, when not bombarded by the sheer density of their current spectacle, that you fully appreciate how perfectly everything is put together. There is no hint of a missed cue nor a bum note throughout 15 songs of considerable complexity, and the mix is absolutely perfect from the quietest wisps of the aforementioned 'Svefn-G-Englar' to the shrieking guitar squalls of the set's close. Until you see them live it is easy to forget what a phenomenon Sigur Rós are, and there is no better time to see them than the present.

Jordan Dowling

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