Houston is a strange place. The world basically ends after Houston and doesn't pick up again until L.A. Well, not really. Taking I-10 West, one will eventually hit San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, and Phoenix, but these are just desert outposts in the middle of what may as well be another planet. Houston is the end of civilization. Beyond is desert. If you've seen the 13th Floor (which ain't too great a film), the road out of Houston is the road out of the created world. So Houston would seem to be a great place for Icelandic band, Sigur Ros, to play.
The theater district of Houston has no coffee shops. Anyone you meet there will tell you that they do, but when you ask where, they will say, "I don't know. I'm sure there's one here somewhere." They can't tell you exactly where because these coffee shops do not exist. Looking back, I'm glad my trio of terror could not find a coffee shop, because coffee makes humans urinate, and urinating in the Verizon Wireless Theater is illegal except in designated areas from which the stage cannot be viewed.
Anima, the Icelandic string quartet (who also play strings on Sigur Ros' albums) opened up the show. Thus began one of the most confusing 45-minute clusters of time in my life.
Anima plays weird little elf lullabies, but I don't understand exactly how. The four girls ran back and forth to various stringed instruments setting loops, but their most important tool appeared to be the laptop controlling everything. I suspect this laptop is evil.
Anima played oboe, cello, violin, guitar, slide guitar, champagne glasses (by hovering hands over them) and a saw (a sharp tool used to cut down trees) among other things. Though their music was enjoyable, everyone came to see Sigur Ros, and there was quite a layer of antsiness in the air once Anima's set hit the 30-minute mark.
Thankfully, Sigur Ros and Anima shared some of the same equipment/Sigur Ros equipment didn't get in the way of Anima's set because, once Anima got out of the way, Sigur Ros wasted little time getting on the stage.
Before SigurRos began their first song, Glosoli, a silk screen stretched out, obfuscating the audience's view of the the stage. I spit that word out like a peanut butter sandwich.
At this moment (when the silk screen stretched out, not when I said 'obfuscating'), the two-hour audio/visual orgasm known as Sigur Ros' live show began.
To get a decent idea of the first ten minutes of the show, a click here may help.
Sigur Ros roared through Glosili, lights blasting their shadows all over the screen, then the silk was rolled back and the view of the band made clear--a reveal that proved indeed humans, or at least beings in the guise of humans, were playing the music coming from the stage.
Singer/guitar player Jonsi then launched into a guitar solo played with a violin bow, stripping the paint off the walls, and then the band slid into fan favorite Ny Batteri.
After an hour and a half of aural bliss (I never get tired of the term "aural bliss". I could say it all day), Sigur Ros left the stage. And that was it.
No, I'm just kidding. The band then came back out for an encore.
When I heard the first note of Untitled Eight from the ( ) album, I was immediately disappointed because I knew this would have to be their last song. If you've heard this song, you know why I knew it was going to be their last song. There were songs I wanted to hear that were not played, as is the nature of any concert experience.
However, the bands rendition of Untitled Eight washed any bad taste out of my mouth.
This track, usually nine minutes of buildup and three minutes of ridiculously satisfying catharsis, was stretched to its absolute limit and became all the stronger for it. The band stretched the song out for seemingly twenty minutes, building and building until all air had left the room. I drum on my knees, and I thought I was going to break them. The band took nearly fifteen minutes to reach the awaited sonic explosion that closes the song, and once the fuse hit the powder, Sigur Ros held the audience to the sweet, sweet fire as long as possible. Jonsi pushed his voice to limit. He is more than capable to hit the notes he does on the albums-in fact, there were times during this song and throughout the show that he surpassed them. When Sigur Ros finally hit the final crashing note, the audience exploded to its feet. I've never seen that kind of reaction from an audience. I've been to many concerts, seen many big concerts on television, been to huge rowdy religious events, been to sold-out college footballs games played by championship teams, and beaten Zelda for the Super Nintendo, but I've never seen a reaction of such fierce gratitude from an audience.
At that exact moment in time, Sigur Ros could have commanded the audience to do anything, and the audience would have done it. It is quite good that, at least for now, Sigur Ros is using their powers for good.
If they go bad, Iceland may take over the world.
If you even remotely enjoy the music this band creates and have the opportunity, I would suggest attending one of their shows. Tickets are inexpensive (under $30 before Ticketmaster fees, if you can pick them up before they sell out).
For those interested in the setlist, I can't give you the exact order, but I can remember every song they played:
From Agaeis Byrjun:
From ( )Untitled Six (A huge surprise, considering it was not played at the November Iceland show, but a welcome one, as this song was a definite highlight)