It’s 2005. The spine chilling, tear duct activating keys of ‘Hoppípolla’ hit our ears for the first time. In a couple of months the song will be ubiquitous and forever synonymous with David Attenborough, but for now it’s beauty is fresh faced, it’s simplicity treading a more emotionally stirring path than any songs sung in our native tongue could have been. ’Hoppípolla’, taken from 2005′s fourth full length Takk, was of course Sigur Rós‘ grab for commercial success and as a result was the first song a lot of people experienced, despite the fact that they had been going for around 10 years at that point. So it is only natural that tonight, this is the song that sets everyone off.
Before they reach that mass consumed pinnacle though, it is ‘Vaka’ (otherwise known as ‘Untitled 1′) that breaks long time fans’ hearts – it’s wailing, sharp falsetto vocals seemingly driving the stunning visuals: magnificent projections fill this mammoth bowl of a venue, lasers swirl through the cold mist and lights flicker with the intensity of a thousand Icelandic suns, helping to melt the frustration of them arriving over an hour late to the stage. The entire room is already enveloped, hanging on their every word and they’re only just getting started. They’re about to take us on a two hour journey through the highlights of their back catalogue, one which sound much more indebted to frenzied prog-rock than ambient, dreamy pop that their recorded material would suggest.
Their 1999 sophomore full length Agaetis byrjun is represented by the delicate bowed-guitar drones of ’Ny Batterí’, the snarling understated drama of the not so subdued ’Svefn-g-Englar’, the over whelming romanticism of ‘Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása’ and the Vonlenska cries and soaring flutes of ‘Olsen Olsen’. The room is so huge we can barely see a thing on stage, but even if we could we’d probably have our eyes half closed anyway, our thoughts drifting off into an introspective world of colours and thoughts.
‘Glósóli’ occupies a similar space to ‘Hoppípolla’ in everyone’s mind, only tonight it’s gently marching rhythm and rolling lyrics are transformed into something heavier, given a gravitas and a bravado never experienced on record but with such an impressive ensemble (Orri Páll Dyrason, Jónsi Birgisson, Georg Holm and eight others on strings, brass, keyboards and extra guitars), what else would you expect from a song with such an epic guitar driven crescendo?
Opening encore number ‘Ekki Múkk’ takes things even further. One of only two Valtari tracks on show this evening its shimmering instrumentals leave little space for anything to breath, over powering any moments of silence with haunting, wavering glitches and euphoric howls. We don’t want it to end but soon Jónsi is explaining they’re about to play a brand new, unrecorded song for the first time called ’Brennisteinn’. It arrives with real prog-rock aplomb, its overpowering, thunderous bass lines rattling our rib cages. Its swelling forlorn, down tempo beats quickly replaced with a surging pace and a heavier techno aesthetic.
If we’d had a check list before we headed to Iceland, seeing Sigur Rós live would have been right up there with meeting Björk, seeing the Northern Lights and dipping our toes in the Blue Lagoon. So as the unmatched magnitude of set closer ‘Popplagið’ fires out its last, desperate breath we can’t help but feel somewhat in love with this place and with the band we’ve witnessed secure their rightful place in the pages of musical history.