It was a Thursday night and my options were to have a nice, quiet night in watching ‘The Good Wife’ or go to a gig by the mighty totems of Icelandic rock, Reykjavík!, to celebrate the release of their third album, ‘Locust Sounds’. Really, it was a no brainer.
Mind you, having witnessed Reykjavík! in action numerous times over the years, I could almost predict what was going to happen. That is, a successful Reykjavík! concert typically has one, some, or all of the following incidents:
1. Ludicrous levels of noise
2. Manly (but not chauvinistic) rock poses
3. The band getting (partially) naked
4. Man sweat (lots of it)
5. Singer Bóas running and jumping everywhere like a randy chimp
6. Someone falling over
But this gig would be different for two reasons. First, I would be taking my wife, a Reykjavík! virgin and avowed hater of crowds and mansweat. Before we left the house, I played some tracks from ‘Locust sounds’ for her. “Oh, this was playing at a recent work party,” she said enthusiastically, “but they switched it off as there was too much shouting!” A good start then…
Second, there would be a sit down meal before the Reykjavík! set! Yes, before a note was even played, we were treated to a fish buffet at the hostel prepared by Haukur’s father, renowned fish chef (and possible roadie for Saxon) Magnús Hauksson. There were so many dishes on offer; it was a Finding Nemo massacre (even though that didn’t happen). While eating, we were entertained with songs from Markús ‘Diversion Sessions’ Bjarnasson, whose songwriting has improved a lot since I last saw him live. He seems to be channelling his inner geek with songs about ‘Monty Python’ characters and… err… creepy old dudes inviting young boys back to their gingerbread houses to watch ‘Star Wars’ on video.
When the set did start, we saw a more composed than usual Reykjavík! perform. This may have been due to only having 100 happy friends, family and punters paying the admittedly steep prices for tickets (which did have the advantage of keeping the unwashed riff raff away), but the band was still industrious and infectious in their playing.
They started their set with ‘Mountains,’ which was loud and focused, with an impressively heavy piledriver bass from Geiri. It’s amazing how tight the band have become over the years, not even skipping a beat when guitarist Gummi was forced to change his strings halfway through ‘Sneak.’ It didn’t all go smoothly as many of the band’s vocal harmonies produced on the album proved at times difficult to recreate live. There were bum vocal notes on tracks like ‘Nurse, Please,’ but this was offset by some surprisingly delicate shoegaze guitar sounds on tracks like ‘Tenzing Norgay.’
By the time they reached ‘Fire Fire Fire Ocean Ocean,’ my Reykjavík! gig action checklist was filling up as the band went topless in a display of spongy tofu flesh, making the dodgiest male sauna this side of 101. Bóas was perched and swinging from the gym equipment, while a musky layer of piquant mansweat permeated the room, causing my wife’s eyes to bleed acid and making her run to the exit for a cigarette.
They ended their set by powering up with Erna Ómarsdóttir to play together as The Tickling Death Machine. They screamed ‘Oath Of The Goat’ before coming back for an encore of that old family favourite ‘Kate Bush,’ whereupon Haukur actually fell to the floor (possibly on his knees, it was difficult to see from where I was standing).
Because we needed to get up early like regular people, we decided to skip out on dancing to FM Belfast who came on afterwards. Although Reykjavík! were on cruise control, refraining from going completely haywire (like they did at the Palestine benefit gig a couple of months ago), they’re still pretty much the live band on the scene to beat. And my wife? Oh, she loved it. She was singing ‘Hellbound Heart’ all the way home!
Where: KEX Hostel
When: November 11, 2011
listen to the band here
NOTE: Photo not taken at KEX.