There are more mediocre concert films out there than one cares to guess and often when a band risks financial investment to document their live presence, the results are often less than spectacular. Jónsi’s concept for his live offering is a rare exception as not only is it a captivating piece of film making, but the live CD actually outdoes the highly acclaimed studio album. The opening scenes from the accompanied live DVD begins with a fuzzed out series of frantic flashes followed by fluttering butterflies flying over darkness perhaps signalling the metamorphosis that has taken place to put Jónsi’s debut solo album Go on stage; solo being the operative word as Jónsi Birgisson is no stranger to producing brilliant music with his post-pop band Sigur Rós and other collaborations. Many of the songs from Go have been altered to fit the design of the show in order to account for the live setting. Simply put, the re-work greatly enhances the overall mood and tone highlighted by a 10 minute version of ‘Grow Till Tall’ to bring the film and CD to a convergent close. As Jónsi is often the only one with a microphone, he is left to carry the chorus himself as evident in ‘Go Do’ where the harmony on the studio album is pushed aside to showcase his impressive unwavering vocals. The re-arrangements combined with some new tracks work in perfect unison and there is never a sense of non-fulfillment with respect to the studio version.
Go Live’s accompanying DVD is both a concert experience and a visual narrative documenting the way Jónsi creates his music and stage show. There are some great scenes and interviews that interweave with live performances from the dress rehearsal prior to the start of the 2010 world tour. To add a further artistic element to the show, Jónsi reportedly did not charge admission but rather asked the crowd to dress up in animal costumes strengthening the show’s visual motif centered around the natural world accomplished with an array of artful images and effects converting the stage into something seemingly vulnerable to the forces of nature. A highlight includes a stunning inversed line art animation featuring a wolf and deer chase that ends with an explosion of lines culminating with the crescendo in ‘Kolinður’. This is a perfect backdrop to showcase Jónsi’s soft yet powerful falsetto and his propensity to build a musical epic; another operative which serves to describe the live experience on the CD and DVD. The echoes are haunting and mesmerizing, the sound is full and complete, and the overall effect keeps your attention for the duration of the movie. Brilliantly filmed and executed, the DVD is a personal look at an artist and his craft which leaves the viewer in an ethereal state.
The CD features a few more songs and a concert feel complete with crowd noise; an element not largely present on the film. The CD quickly settles into a warm and embracing texture of acoustics with the opener ‘Stars in Still Water’. The ambient layers slowly become apparent in ‘Hengilàs’, featuring a mild undercurrent of traditional Icelandic soundscapes and a slow, haunting melody. A nice addition on the disc is an incredible version of ‘Sticks and Stones’ originally recorded for the soundtrack to the film ‘How To Train a Dragon’, however it comes at a price as ‘Volume Pedal Song’ written exclusively for the live show, was replaced. It is interesting that the CD prepares for the 10 minute finale with a fast paced orchestral piece while the DVD prefers a slow and beautiful track which seamlessly transitions to ‘Grow Till Tall’. Either way, it’s great warm up to the finish.
Contained in a nice package complete with photos and liner notes, Go Live CD/DVD is a true vision of an artist inside and out. Jónsi wrote all the songs, mixed the live show and no doubt helped produce the film. This is his sculpture to the world and it is a dazzling work worthy of high praise.