I’m not sure if you heard, but Jónsi played a little show over at Laugardalshöll on 29 December. Don’t feel bad if the low-key event passed you by, it’s not like it was buzzed about for eons in advance and has been talked about and re-broadcast seemingly endlessly over the radio waves every day since (or at least every time I’m in the vicinity of a radio). And it’s not like hundreds of folks from útlönd flocked to the island just for this one concert. Well, actually, it was and has been they did and rightly so, because it was pretty goddamn amazing.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
Laugardalshöll was a madhouse inside and out (seriously, the joint needs more ample parking) leading up to the 20:00 start-time, when the cleverly named Brassgat í Bala took the stage to lull the eager crowd with their experimental composition as they poured into the dimly lit hall. Some of the brass quintet’s music was so darkly ceremonious I felt as though I was listening to the funeral procession of a once important man. Other tunes were so creative—a personal favourite moment was when the group was simultaneously blowing through their instruments with loosened embrasures so as to generate a breathy white-noise effect—that I really had to give some silent kudos to Jónsi et al. for putting on an opening band that at least the copious amounts of foreigners in attendance have likely never heard of and would otherwise not have been exposed to. So, kudos, good sirs. Kudos.
Now on with the show
OK. Let’s get one very important fact out of the way before I get to what I really am compelled to write about and risk potentially angering hoards of Jónsi fanatics: Jónsi was incredible. ‘Go’ is an impeccable solo effort and every song thereon is creative and catchy and unique and inspiring and goose-bump inducing. And, despite the fact that some of the tracks would seem to be difficult to recreate live, Jónsi and his band really pulled it off brilliantly.
The singer’s voice was pitch-perfect. He alternated between the now well-known album tracks with lesser-known or (to me at least) completely new ditties without losing the audiences complete and devoted attention. The man is a force.
He eased into the show, all eyes on him, with ‘Hengilás’ before diving into a ravishing rendition of ‘Kolniður’ that was teetering on the brink of being overshadowed by the stunning black and white animation of wolves stalking prey that played out on the screen behind the band. This is not to say that the song was lacking, just that the imagery during the song (and throughout the concert in its entirety) was so incredibly captivating.
‘Sinking Friendships’ saw Jónsi taking to the piano; ‘Go Do’ got people moving at the half-way point; ‘Animal Arithmetic’ (my person favourite) kept the crowds collective pulses racing; and ‘Around Us’ inspired some concert-goers to add to the ambiance by blowing bubbles for the duration as the band eased into a break.
Everything was phenomenal.
But the most mind-blowing aspect of the night: Þorvaldur Þór Þorvaldsson.
With a crown atop his shorn scalp and an amply fringed tank swaying and bouncing with his every movement, the drummer fist pumped his way into my heart. While none of the other musicians on stage actually needed to be helped along, Þorvaldur carried the show anyhow. His drumming was so hypnotizing and dynamic that, even if a mound of super tall people hadn’t been blocking everything else in my field of view save for his drum kit, I still would not have been able to turn my attention away. If the dreadlocked fellow adjacent to me had spontaneously combusted in the middle of ‘Grow Till Tall’, I would have continued to stare with furrowed brow and gaping jaw as Þorvaldur manoeuvred himself around that kit with metronomically astounding timing, sporadically and playfully saluting the crowd and dancing along to the sounds of his own kick-drum.
He drove the show. He sustained the show. He built up such palpable tension and possessed such entrancing stage presence that I was left speechless (at least my boyfriend wishes I was, as in actuality I couldn’t shut up about it).
In short, Þorvaldur blew my mind.
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