Oakland, Oakland, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: my beloved Oakland A's, your oh-so-comfy climate, and the fact that Sigur Ros was playing in your city limits at the best venue in the Bay Area, the art-deco Paramount Theatre. The wondrousness of Sigur Ros AND a sit-down venue? My cough and general malaise were thanking you in advance, oh, Oakland.
How does one exactly describe a Sigur Ros show? If you've ever seen the Icelandic quartet, who flesh out to about nine people for their live set, with the introduction of Amina, an all-femme string quartet, you know that the experience is a one-of-a-kind experience. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to catch them live, make sure you do, ASAP; it's not an event you'll soon forget.
This was my fourth Sigur Ros concert and the band never fails to amaze (muchos propios to the lovely Lisa Mastrianni of MCA, by the way). Each song is a hymn from the House Of Celestial Worship, somehow combining familiar instruments into something previously unimaginable. Frontman JÛnsi Birgisson angelic tones, sung in his own made-up Hopelandic, are spine chilling at worst and life-affirming at best. On one song, Birgisson, who is wont to play his guitar with a bow, started off with an infernal cacophony the likes of which Saruman would conjure up orcs with. This sonic overload subsided, to the amazing juxtaposition of the incredible vocal tones and bombastic percussion provided by drummer Orri Pall Dyras, his heads being hit harder than war drums in the heat of battle. Not to be outdone with Birgisson's bow treatment, on one number (I'm not good with names, sorry), bassist Georg Holm used a drumstick to provide the bass guitar beat, to amazing results, the song crescendoing into full sonic maelstrom, with all musicians, the string quartet included, playing as hard as fast as possible. Birgisson would summon sounds from his six-string as not previously heard from the instrument, evoking a chorus of baleen whales sounding. Sigur Ros live are truly awe-inspiring as evidenced by the complete and utter crowd control they possessed, no one clapping until the last quiet tone of each song had subsided. Reappearing for a curtain call and full band bow, as if in a play, a standing ovation rained down on those wondrous musicians who provided the soundtrack to planets forming, to the sun rising, to plants growing and to the tide pushing and pulling. It was the soundtrack to everything and the soundtrack to nothing at all. And last night, it was mine.