With the immanent hinge upon which Britain balanced on Wednesday evening, there felt no better way to spend it than to lose oneself to beautifully apocalyptic post-rock.
Thousands of punters migrated to Bristol’s harbourside last night to see the second installment in a series of four gigs for Bristol Summer Series. With a backlog of eclectic (and for the most part non-sellout) artists, the events have been appealing to a wide range of listeners in their central city location.
Overcast as best, and with flocks of seagulls circling around, it felt like an apt entrance into Britain’s warmer months. Seminal post-rock outfit Sigur Rós could not have marked a more triumphant beginning. Their etheral and almost utopian noise pairs rather perfectly with an outdoor environment, and those who attended made no compromise to see them in the flesh, by Bristol’s river Avon, performing their first batch of new music for three years.
Never knowing quite what to expect in the way of support, audience members were left baffled as to how this particular choice had been made. James Canty jumped the stage prompty, 12-string guitar in hand, and began belting out his semi-anthems. In no way of subtlety he projected pop-icon status, but with the limitation that maybe he wasn’t as catchy as he thought he was. He delivered songs that were by no means musically limited, and even branched into synthesizers, loops and drum machines to get us in the mood. Unfortunately he failed to hit the mark, but punters carried on willingly, the sun starting to peek through.
Sigur Ros adorned the stage some 45 minutes later, standing in among symmetrical steel structures that would clearly light up at some point. Stripped back to just the three core members, they all stood close and performed their first track with just drum pads, bass and electric guitar. It struck me how such an explosive sound could come from such a small impetus. Electric blue hexagonal shapes began appearing on the wall behind them, and as they finished they peeled off and stepped further to the stage’s edge, as if it was just a warm up.
Gracing listeners with an immersive sonic and visual experience, Sigur Rós possess the trick of being able to suspend listeners in time. Their almost hymn-like melodies seem to almost transcend language as they aid you in exiting this world, even for just a moment. At times ethereal, it can suddenly take an apocalyptic course, turning primal and hard-hitting. Birgisson’s style of guitar playing, coupled with delay and sustain establish a messy melody upon which the compositions unfold. There isn’t really anything else quite like it. A range of imagery also accompanied their performance, mostly galactic in nature with the aid of the three-dimensional structure that projected lasers and light.
They left to rapturous applause, to which they returned and performed one last song (of standard Sigur Rós length). The response was one of elation, but also perhaps of a moment no one wanted to end. Music never fails to transcend boundaries and words, and only aids in bringing people together for a collective experience. Sigur Rós truly provided a sense of escapism last night that we are going to need a lot more of.