Jonsi

It’s not all that often I’ll go to a concert and willingly sit for the entire production. Sure, the philharmonics and chamber choirs of the world have their place, and as I get older and my knees start to give out, I’ll surely be more inclined to hit up that type of show a little more often. But for now, opera doesn’t really fill my cup.

Then there are artists like Sigur Ros, who create songs that are derivative of classical music yet still end up on festival lineups with the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire. Artists like this are crash-courses in orchestral sound, a primer for the mainstream music fan. On Sigur Ros singer Jonsi Birgisson’s debut solo effort, Go, the purpose is no different, but it is much, much bigger.

On Go, the same basic principles that make Sigur Ros what it is, the soaring, insular falsetto; the airy, pounding toms; the twinkly piano ballads, are still there. In fact, there’s more of all of it, in louder doses. It’s as if Jonsi himself got tired of beating around the bush, tired of waiting for those epic climaxes that more often than not took nine minutes to finally come around, and decided to just stop waiting.

Of course, hearing Go in the privacy of one’s own home, like with any other record featuring Jonsi’s unmistakable voice, simply pales in comparison to hearing the songs from Go performed live in a setting like Denver’s palatial Paramount Theatre. The stage is massive enough to house even the grandiose vision of 59 Productions; a cascading video backdrop featuring animals, inclement weather, and all manner of mild psychedelic light. And unlike those over-the-top U2 productions, this one felt succinctly in line with what Jonsi intended to bring to the auditorium.

For the first half hour of the show the singer held court almost exclusively, his voice careening over quiet acoustic guitars and muted percussion. It wasn’t until later that the backdrop took on a foggy glow, draping the band in white mist as the tempo of the songs began to slowly increase.  Boy Lilikoi came midway through the set, finally lifting a handful of patrons out of their seats to sing along. Jonsi breathed life into the Paramount.

As expected, the momentum continued to ramp up until a slew of higher-octane tracks from “Go Do,” “Animal Arithmetic,” and “Grow Till Tall” brought it to its climactic closure. During “Grow Till Tall,” the stage backdrop lit up slowly, depicting a rainstorm. Deepening from drizzle to gale, it mimicked the band’s intensifying cohesion until at one point it felt as though the entire audience had been caught within a hurricane. And then the music stopped, and the rain stopped, and the band took a bow amid a standing ovation. Perfection is an inappropriate word for a journalist to use in describing anything, so I’ll just say that this was pretty fucking good.

It was a phenomenal surprise to exit the theater and discover that not only had Jonsi and his band brought the rain inside the theater, but they’d conjured up a nice downpour outside, too. Seemed fitting.

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