A few years ago I was in Corinth, Greece, walking amongst the ruins of an acropolis. The day was overcast. Enormous, rolling clouds in shade of gray were overhead. The air was heavy. It seemed at any second the sky would open up and drench us all. The only sounds that could be heard atop that hill were the wind, my footsteps and Sigur Ros surging through my headphones. It seemed that with every step I took the music grew more magnificent. I felt as if I could see the ancient gods in the billowing clouds. I could hear the footsteps of the soldiers of the past in perfect harmony with gorgeously dense atmosphere of my surroundings and the fading vocals of Sigur Ros. Never in my life had I felt so inspired, so in awe, so
powerful and at the same time so insignificant. Since then, Sigur Ros has become a band that means a great deal to me, so when I heard that they were coming to Chicago again, this time to the historic Civic Opera House, I knew I had to be there.
The Civic Opera House is located right in the heart of downtown Chicago. Its mix of Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles make it one of the most beautiful structures in a city full of amazing architecture. It was built in 1929 and was recently restored to its original glory with the help of $100 million. The Civic Opera House is home to the renowned Lyric Opera of Chicago and has been graced by such performers as Frank Sinatra, Bjork and most recently, Sigur Ros.
Upon walking through the opulent doors I knew that there was no better place in Chicago for Sigur Ros to play. With seats for upwards of 3,600, almost none were empty as the lights dimmed and an enormous mesh screen dropped from the ceiling to mask the entire stage. As the notes to "Glosoli" began to fill the Opera House, the crowd fell into a silence that I have never before experienced at a live show. Lights backlit the members of Sigur Ros, creating multiple shadows on the mesh that grew and shrank in perfect rhythm with the song. As the tempo of the song picked up, so did the flashing of the back lights, culminating in a chaotic scene of lights and sound that set the stage for what would be one of the most amazing performances I will ever be apart of.
When the song ended, the mesh screen was lifted and a stage filled with instruments and musicians was revealed. The four stunning women of Amiina played string instruments, accompanying the four members of Sigur Ros. As each song was played, the members of the band moved from instrument to instrument in seamlessly choreographed moves. On the back wall of the stage was a huge screen where organic images were projected to perfectly compliment each song. I could run through each song they played, but I won't. All I can say is that the show was beyond words. It seems cliche to say that a show changed my life, so I won't. What I will say is that seeing Sigur Ros live made me never want to see another concert again, for it would just pale in comparison. Each song flowed seamlessly into the next. During "Viora," there was silence. The band members stood as still as statures. The audience did not utter a sound for almost a minute. Never before have I been in a room with over 3,000 people without hearing a single sound, not even a breath. Seconds turned into minutes until some could take it no more and clapped, then the music took over again.
After over an hour of some of the most breathtaking, awe inspiring music, the women left the stage and the four core members of Sigur Ros were left alone. It was then that vocalist, Jonsi Birgisson spoke for the first and only time the entire evening. I wish I could tell you that he said something amazing, but truth be told, I couldn't understand a word of what he said. They then played the last song from Takk, "Heysatan." The whole stage was dark except for a small spotlight on the band and five small candle-like lights that grew bright with every strike of the xylophone. The song ended and they walked off. Shortly thereafter they returned to the stage to play two more songs. The show ended as it began, behind the mesh screen. As "Popplagio" surged on, the images projected on the screen became more erratic. An image of a satellite turned and flashed and then there was silence. The audience erupted in the applause and the band returned to the stage for a bow.
To say the show was moving would be a gross understatement. The songs were so powerful and conjured up so many emotions and memories. At one point I wanted to go home, pack my bags, empty my bank account and return to Greece, but I couldn't move from my seat. I know people say this a lot, but seriously, do yourself a favor and see Sigur Ros. It will be the most unreal, magnificent thing you will ever see.
SUPER SPECIAL thanks to Crystal Riley for the tickets.