October 2, 2008
Week Of Shows, Episode Six
Do you believe in faeries?
Sprites, pixies, nymphs, woodland spirits, angels?
Perhaps you should. Because to experience Iceland’s Sigur Ros live is to witness an event so elemental and pure as to be otherworldly in its divinity – cascading, sonorous epics and simple hymns proposed with love and reverence for all things, clearly lacking the ugly ambition that drives so much of humanity. Thursday night at the Greek Theatre, Sigur Ros did not so much perform as present a nearly two-hour uplifting, meditative mass.
Though frequently compared to Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Chris Martin of Coldplay (apparently for no other reason than possessing keening falsettos and/or their mutual propensity to wear modified marching band uniforms), Sigur Ros leader Jonsi Birgisson draws on some remote source of inspiration that places him squarely in a class all his own. This night was no exception, as he repeatedly reached further into some mysterious well to improve upon each of his previous performances. Similarly, the rest of Sigur Ros demonstrated musicianship nulli secondus to their contemporaries, collectively steering their instruments into uncharted, ethereal realms.
For 10 years now, Sigur Ros has harvested the fruits of their unique artistic vision in spite of non-existent mainstream press, radio or video airplay. And more than ever, people have the ability to decide what music they should and should not be allowed to hear. In days past, friends, radio stations or a friendly record store clerk might have influenced the listening habits of consumers, but at the same time, the majority of those suggestions were based on a common pool of releases that record labels deigned acceptable for the masses.
Recent prevailing music industry logic indicated that a foreign artist composing lengthy, orchestral, decidedly non-pop songs an entirely fictional, made-up language had no shot at success in the United States. And yet, over 5,000 people turned out Thursday night to share that exact experience. As the power of the labels continues to ebb, more people will act as their own filters, exercising their freedom to decide that groups like Sigur Ros deserve to be shared with the world.
And that is something to believe in.