Los Angeles Digest

Sigur Rós @ Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall

By Alejandra Ramirez on August 25th, 2023 | Culture, Music

After a long decade, the Icelandic band, Sigur Rós returned to the stage on Monday night and was accompanied by the Wordless Music Orchestra to promote their latest album, ÁTTA – minimialist music performed with maximal impact. The album features the collaboration of a 41-piece orchestra (WMO) including themes of climate despair and the unmistakable lead vocals of Jónsi. Sigur Rós performed in Toronto as they began their US/Canada leg of the tour. They performed new material as well as favorites from their extensive catalog of other popular tunes. In addition to playing live with an orchestra, the group has the opportunity to delve into their more nuanced, opulent, and meticulously orchestrated moments from their music repertoire.

The group stands alone amongst all bands worldwide with only a heavily-soiled resume of live performances and are able to rival the intense, emotional, depth, and musical release that they deliver. Certainly, the concept of a band collaborating with classical musicians is not a novel one. However, there are only a limited number of ensembles that are unmatched as the Icelandic trio with Wordless Music Orchestra. And from this past Monday, the duo made their live performance happen at the Roy Thomson Hall. This venue, according to many, is where there are no bad seat to get the unique atmosphere. In addition, the light effects in the venue give the viewer the feeling of “you are in heaven.”

On this current tour, each show spanning across more than two hours (with an intermittent intermission), Sigur Rós unleashed their enchantment and embarked on their popular tune, “Blóðberg,” from their latest album. Also a great banger song is “8” – it stands as the most exquisite, emotionally-packed and also most likely to bring tears to the audience.

Other popular tunes including, “Starálfur,” from their 1999 studio album, Ágætis byrjun, was also featured during the live show. Their representation of theses songs were equally interpreted as it honored the original arrangement and in addition – the segments featuring Hólm strutting the acoustic guitar. This album is merely one of numerous pieces from Sigur Rós’ extensive repertoire that has emerged from a period of obscurity. Along with WM orchestra, the group can revisit instances of greater delicacy, enhanced opulence, and heightened orchestration.

During the show, some classic songs like “Svefn-g-englar” and “Sæglópur” were played. Instead, we were treated to three remarkable selections from their 2012 leading album, Valtari. This album, in particular, was mentioned to be like “an avalanche in slow motion.” The first part of the show concluded after “Varðeldur,” for which commenced with hushed vocals from various members of the orchestra and then concluded with the resonant circular piano riff. This dynamic combination helped result in a total crowd silence. The crowd vibe afterwards – a feeling of joy and gratefulness. And wanting to hear more.

The second portion of the show started with two of their most popular songs from Untitled ( ). Both songs were “Vaka” and “Samskeyti.” We don’t need to understand what they are singing about. Either because it is in their native language or because part of their repertoire is in Vonlenska, a “language” that they created for the audience members to understand with only our soul and body.

One show cannot be complete until the group plays “Hoppípolla.” This emotional rollercoaster ended the event with the entire audience standing and applauding the group including the orchestra members for more than five minutes. Thanking them for the moment of catharsis that we experienced and will never forget.

Photo Credit: Sophie Bouquillon

Setlist: Blóðberg, Ekki múkk, Fljótavík, 8, Von, Andvari, Starálfur, Dauðalogn, Varðeldur,Vaka, Samskeyti, Heysátan, Ylur, Skel, All Alright, Álafoss, Sé Lest, Hoppípolla, Avalon

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