There isn’t really a great way to describe Sigur Rós‘ live shows in writing. It’s something that has to experienced in person, not vicariously. Jónsi and co.’s performances could be called “majestic”, “sweeping”, or “life-affirming”, but even those descriptors don’t capture the emotional grandeur of a Sigur Rós show. However, if it must be described, it was likely nothing short of “breathtaking” for those that were in attendance at the Icelandic quartet’s show on Wednesday.
Whether or not they had seen the band in concert before, every member of audience was clearly full of anticipation for the imminent performance, because the entry line had wrapped around the adjacent block (not to mention the long line of fans with early entry wristbands) half an hour before the doors even opened. Ninety minutes and one glistening opening set from Julia Holter later, Jónsi, Georg, and Orri (keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson has opted out from touring for the time being) walked onstage with their supporting players and began what would easily become one of the best shows at the Paramount (if not Seattle) all year.
Opening with the (relatively) subtle Ekki Múkk, the band and their well-executed visual accompaniment charged through a two-hour set that was light on new material (only four out of the fifteen songs played were released after 2007) and heavy on the Icelandic band’s best-known songs. That’s not a bad thing though. The new songs chosen were among the most immediate of their recent output, and the old tunes remain as striking as ever. Although commanding onstage, Jónsi was generally silent until the encore, when he plainly noted, “It has been four years since we’ve played indoors... so that’s nice.”
Despite a four-year break from touring (and what Jónsi described as an “indefinite break” behind the scenes), Sigur Rós remains a inimitable tour-de-force live act. For the lucky few who were present, it was a reminder of just how powerful their music is, and how much they’re missed when they go away.