If you don’t understand a word that the band Sigur Ros’ front man Jonsi Birgisson sings, it’s because of one or two reasons. The first and most obvious possibility is that you don’t speak Icelandic. Even if you do, then there are still some songs that sound like gibberish. That’s because Birgisson also sings in Hopelandic, the vocalist’s invented language, separated from gibberish on account of its intensely melodic nature.
At Lollapalooza this past Sunday, the internationally renowned band performed songs that no language barrier could prevent an audience from feeling moved. Something within the midst of their full sounding, musically intricate set of melodies touched the crowd on a deep note, leaving everyone in a still state of awe as if something larger than life were going on in front of or within them.
Maybe the magic lies in the band’s ability to reach pop audiences while straying from many of the ‘genre’s’ standards. Maybe it is the beautiful, transcendent state Birgisson’s falsetto brings listeners to. It definitely wasn’t just the gorgeous weather – the sort of music Sigur Ros is known for can be enjoyed under any nighttime sky, at any venue, and even in an elevator. In any case, these ambiguities are the signs of truly good, innovative and unique music.
Sigur Ros’ music is perfect for film scores. Their music has appeared in films like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Vanilla Sky as well as TV shows. This is because their music feels profound, as if lending any event – daily or spontaneous – an impactful amount of meaning. Imagine standing in an elevator, getting off, then walking to the store. View this in slightly slower motion with Sigur Ros playing in the background, and one might assume that very moment to be the one that changes your life.
This is why their live performance can reach such a diverse audience. Those in attendance at Sunday’s show ranged from status-quo’ers to people heavily involved with every music subculture in Chicago. No matter what your musical poison may be, the elements that Sigur Ros borrow from other genres to create their signature blend of ambient post-pop are the same that go into all modern music – the popular music notation structures, proven effective throughout time.
What sets Sigur Ros apart is the way each note is accentuated, arranged, and emoted. Listening to their live show, one will not find the flaws that leave such a gap between record and performance for some bands. Instead, venturing over to the Red Bull stage to see the Icelandic band provided an almost orchestral-sounding live set, encompassing melody, ambiance, gibberish, and, miraculously, the innovate spirit that made rock and roll stand out at its inception. The set left the audience unable to move, unless to offer an enthusiastic applause for each song. Now, imagine watching that same audience with the music muted.
That is the impact of Sigur Ros.