Sigur Rós are an experimental rock band from Mosfellsbær, essentially a suburb of Reykjavík, who have become international critical favourites with three extremely respected albums. Yeah, odds are, you know who they are – the guys who sing the “eeeeeh eeh eeh, ooh ah ahhh ah ah” song. Or the guys who inspired you to come here.
The last week of July saw Sigur Rós return to Iceland after a year supporting their fantastically successful album Takk. As many four-star reviews as their album received, their live performances have left critics on at least three continents breathless. You would think they would be exhausted – before they set off on their tours, they warned that they likely would be, that they would tour hard for a year, then take a year off.
But whatever their state, they decided to dedicate their resources, talent, and the energy they had left after a year of touring, to performing a series of eight free concerts for their native Iceland.
The reaction has been divided: for their largest show, here in Reykjavík, there was casual approval from the local media, with very little critical discussion. For the shows in the north, especially in Ísafjörður, the band got a better response.
Today, looking over a range of reviews and emails about the recent shows, though, I can’t find much that puts Sigur Rós in perspective. Our own review of the Reykjavík show, written by our fantastically morose critic Sindri Eldon, cuts the band no slack at all. Our other review, by our other curmudgeon, Helgi Valur, is ecstatic in its praise of the Öxnadalur show.
Both reviews, along with those sent in by casual fans, suggest one constant: the Sigur Rós shows that happened at the end of July weren’t seen, by Icelanders, to be about Sigur Rós. The band itself, with music that would stand out anywhere in the world, faded into the background as their concerts became outdoor family events in a country that still celebrates weather and nature, at least in the summer, a little more than it does music.
I have sat at my desk absolutely bewildered by the number of descriptions of kids making out, at the number of “concert photos” featuring dogs, families on blankets, and rocks, that have been turned in.
And now, hell, I’m running ‘em.
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Sigur Rós fan, refer to previous coverage – especially the November 28th concert review we printed, as Sigur Rós played essentially the same set, with the same visuals, as they did during their official pay concert many months ago.
Mainly, though, realise that what happened when the Icelandic rock stars came home was that Iceland took a good long look at itself. While it might suck to be Sigur Rós, and not get all that much praise for a noble effort, one can at least realise that the band, in their unselfless behaviour, have accomplished something remarkable – they’ve helped Icelanders rediscover their countryside, their parks, and, in the case of our own critic, his dyspepsia.