Sigur Rós / Amiina
The Lyric Opera House; Chicago, IL
After taking an elevator up to the
balcony accompanied by a tuxedoed usher while polite applause rippled across
the theater for openers Amiina, I knew this wouldn't be a typical rock show.
In a venue that regularly hosts performances of Die Fledermaus and Cosi fan
Tutte, Sigur Rós' epic compositions and enormous sound still seemed fit to
share the stage, even if the fans in attendance were not typical of the Lyric
Opera House's usual black tie audiences.
The four Icelandic women of Amiina wowed the crowd with their skills on the
strings, incorporating bells, electronics, and even the saw into their short
opening set. The strings were the focus of every song, with the quartet
sitting in a small square atop a tall platform, seemingly unaware an audience
existed. As each song progressed, various members left the platform to
smoothly wander the stage from instrument to instrument, building the sound
gradually in the typical post-rock style Sigur Rós made popular. Amiina's
sound was also very reminiscent of another Icelandic band, Múm, especially as
the precious tinkling of the bells were looped and layered through the Apple
computer that rested incongruously on stage. After thanking the audience with
some very adorable broken English, the band wrapped things up with an
uncharacteristically danceable song with a serious beat.
After taking in the beauty of the Lyric's interior and hitting up the nicest
bathroom I've ever used at a concert, the lights dimmed and the curtains drew
back to reveal Sigur Rós positioned behind a sheer white screen. Easing into "Glósóli"
from their latest album Takk..., the shadows of the band and their
instruments moved across the screen as they played from behind, while faint
gray video of leaves blowing and feet stomping projected onto the stage. The
sound grew gradually, eventually filling the entire room with the final
minute's heart-pounding drums and singer Jon Thor Birgisson's piercing voice,
every note of every instrument crystal clear. As the song finished and the
crowd cheered, the screen rose to reveal the band, the women of Amiina perched
on their platform in the familiar square position, Jon standing awkwardly in
front of the microphone at the center of the stage with his guitar and bow in
After that stellar beginning, the band's set focused primarily on songs from
their most recent albums, the rockin' Takk ("Hoppipola" and "Sæglópur"
were definite standouts) and the far more mellow and sedative () (Yu-si-yo!),
which often left me wanting to close my eyes and just take in the sounds in
peace. The lighting very much complemented the show as video continued to
stream on a screen behind the band; the greens, blues, and reds flashed across
the stage in perfect timing with the music, while the shadows of the various
band members could often be seen along the theater's side walls. Meanwhile,
the band stood rather rigidly on stage, with most of the movement coming from
the sways of the members of Amiina as their arms flowed with the bows of their
strings. Only once did Birgisson speak, and whether it was broken English or
unintelligible Icelandic (or maybe Hopelandish?), no one in the audience was
quite sure what he said.
After briefly leaving the stage to more of that polite applause, the screen
lowered in front of the band again as they returned to the stage to close out
the show with "Untitled #8" from (). Building their sound very
gradually while the lighting strategically revealed the silhouette of a
different band member each second, the band eventually made its way to a
booming ending as strobe lights flashed across the audience and forced me to
turn away my eyes and plug my ears while Birgisson's ear-splitting siren voice
soared above the massive wall of sound. Blind and deaf, but pleased, I watched
as Sigur Rós dropped their instruments and left abruptly, returning to the
stage seconds later for a final bow to their thrilled audience.