Smoke swirls. A blurry forest of softly lit trees gleams on the backdrop. The lights dim. A reverent hush and eerie stillness falls over the sold-out 9:30 Club. A strangely dressed, shadowy figure crosses the stage to the center mike like a mythical creature, feathery. A lone falsetto, pure and natural, slices through the suspension, wavering ever so slightly, gaining strength till it rings out. An acoustic guitar joins in harmony. Together they echo off the walls and envelop the room.
On Monday night, I journeyed into an ethereal otherworld of wandering wild beasts, magically morphing forests, raging fire, smoke, dripping water, and mystical music at the Jonsi concert. The recently solo, lead singer of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros—bedecked in a head to toe plaid and feather ensemble—performed the most imaginative and blindingly ambitious show that I have ever seen. He and his backup band of five, equally earthy, Icelanders held the audience rapt awe for every second of the hour and twenty minute Nordic musical dream voyage. The entire stage seemed to be possessed by the woodland spirit of Iceland.
He adheres to an aesthetic of mystical beauty in his sound and his performace. He played his entire new album Go that was released on April 6, 2010. Jonsi, or Jón Thor Birgisson, explains his solo move and unexpected new sound, “ I started out trying to make a low-key, acoustic album, but somewhere along the line it just sort of exploded.” His songs blend English and Icelandic (I honestly could barely distinguish the two languages, but that may be his point: they lyrics do not matter so much as the experience of the music accompanied by the projected graphics.) They soar through an ever-changing sky of sound, from fragile, lighter-than-air reveries like “Hengilas” to thunderous, tumultuous symphonic crescendos like “Go Do” and “Grow Till Tall.”
Yet Jonsi still had more in store. Appearing in a full headdress, his two-song encore ended in a lightening storm of sound, lights, graphics, smoke, dance, and beauty. He left the audience breathless and cheering for more. The group came back out onstage for a third time, but this time they just bowed, in a sweet and endearing foreign way.
Though, be forewarned. His music may shine and capture the hearts of many, including my own, but Jonsi, like Sigur Ros, is not for everyone. Those who prefer a cleaner, more streamlined approach (perhaps less costumes and moving animal graphics) to concert performance might be overwhelmed and turned off by his obsession with aesthetics. However, he deserves distinctive recognition for leading a musical journey through his unique realm of harmony and beauty. Personally, I hope and look forward to the day when I can reenter the magical world of Jonsi once more.
Check out his video of “Go Do.” AMAZING