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A Night of Ethereal Music at the Garden

March 26th, 2013

Sigur Rós – Madison Square Garden – March 25, 2013

Sigur Rós do big things well. Their sound and all the feelings it evokes can feel magnificently infinite. They make songs that fit well alongside wide-angle shots of earthly spectacles, space and fast-moving time lapses. It’s a limitless sound that needs a giant venue to fill, so it only makes sense for it to live, for at least a night, in Madison Square Garden, an arena usually devoted to basketball, hockey and two guys punching each other in the face. And it only took two songs into last night’s set to realize that you were there.

Sigur Rós began the show performing behind a box of screens, projecting their shape-shifting silhouettes against colorful visuals that looked something like the Northern Lights. For the violent-sounding guitar drones at the beginning of “Ný Batterí,” the only member visible was the outline of Jónsi Birgisson, sawing away at his wailing guitar with a violin bow. The song continued to crescendo into what felt like a breaking point, when the front screen dropped down to reveal the entire band. The most intense moments were more than just loud to the ears: The swirling visuals behind the band upped the intensity alongside the increased sound. Volume alone would get so loud that the air became thick with vibrations to the point that it felt like you could reach out and touch it.

But the night included plenty of beautiful, softer moments as well, and just hearing Birgisson’s ethereal voice fill the venue was alone worth the price of admission. At one point he held his breathy falsetto through three different rounds of ovations, magically finding the air in his lungs to hold the hanging note. It wasn’t until the long set of applause at the show’s conclusion that it really kicked in just how many people were in attendance. And in the end, that the crowd’s cheers were anywhere near the mega sound of Sigur Rós’s set proved just how much the show was appreciated. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com