Passing by Fenway Stadium on May 6, the street was paved with red and white. Pedestrians mobbed the street. Drunk men in Red Sox jerseys swerved into my path with their drunker girlfriends, while small children ran rampant and unrestrained. The air still reeked of stadium hot dogs and spilled beer as I waited in line to enter into the House of Blues. Making my way deeper into the venue however, remnants of the outside world soon began to slip away as we came to greet a dark, moody stage.
The set-up seemed minimal, if not dilapidated at first, complete with cracked, dusty glass boxes, old looking suitcases and knickknacks, and a large, weathered screen. It was only as the performances carried on through the show that the set took on a new life–the lanterns burning bright inside the glass boxes; the harmonium being played inside one of the suitcases, the screen turning into a mangled, metallic structure–molding JÃ³nsi’s on-stage world into a multi-colored show of nature and the elements.
Later that evening, Sigur RÃ³s‘ lead singer and beloved Icelandic figure JÃ³nsi Birgisson would bring his Go Tour 2010 to the House of Blues in Boston, an innovative showcase of the singer’s talents as a musician and his flighty imagination as an artist.
All in all, JÃ³nsi had performed nearly the entirety of his solo album Thursday night, beginning with the sobering beauty of “Stars in Still Water” and “HengilÃ¡s,” moving into the bouncy, alive territory of his sparkling up-tempos including “Go Do” and “Sinking Friendships,” and ending with the colossal, earth-shattering sounds of “Grow Till Tall.”
Given his status as the lead singer of Sigur RÃ³s, I had assumed the Icelandic crooner would stick to what he’s come to be revered for–his voice. And truly, he did: With each song, JÃ³nsi delivered his signature vibrato and alien cries and extended howls, at one point holding a note for what must have been over thirty seconds. His voice is just as it sounds on record–wrought with emotion and tenderness–meaning that I’d find myself getting choked up more than once as the night progressed.
Yet JÃ³nsi did more than just sing. In fact, it seemed as though the artist took turns at each instrument at some point during the night as he moved across the stage, plucking away at the piano, the guitar, and even playing the xylophones along with the rest of the band.
As a troupe, the group worked together effortlessly. While JÃ³nsi would be trashing about onstage singing or playing the piano, one player would be sliding together stone bowls into the microphone, while another would sit on the floor and thoughtfully pluck at the harmonium. All together, it was nothing less than organic.
While the whole of the concert seemed to envelop the entire audience, it was undoubtedly the finale that truly had the crowd speechless. As the noise of “Grow Till Tall” grew increasing distorted, it pushed the speaker’s deep bass capacity to the max, making it seem as though the entire room was shaking (or was it?) The strobes flashed like lightning, the instruments jarringly crashed atop one another, and the screen behind the band was shattered to pieces in a massive, threatening rain and wind storm that grew increasingly violent and blinding. All was destroyed in the end, leaving nothing behind on the screens and no one on stage. That is, until the band re-emerged for their final bow to wild applause and cheers from the elated crowd.
JÃ³nsi’s show captures and bottles the essence and magic of the live performance, unleashing a torrent of color and sound onto the audience who, like myself, looked on with nothing short of wonder and awe.
See this tour while/if you still can–it’s entirely worth it.
And now, a montage of clips from the show, which do a little bit more justice than the photos.