Sigur Rós Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver BC, September 18

Sigur Rós Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver BC, September 18
Photo: Sharon Steele
Orchestral and atmospheric Icelandic trio Sigur Rós kicked off their North American tour in Vancouver last night (September 18), with new, stunning visuals and no additional musicians.
The band took to the stage and introduced a new track, entitled "Á" ("river"). Jumping around their extensive catalogue, it was clear that they weren't about to play only their mellower songs, despite the stately venue. Pounding drums elevated the drama of "E-Bow," from ( ), one of several mammoth performances that would dominate the set. Frontman Jónsi's vocals were soaring and powerful, as was his guitar playing, which varied from straight noise to elegant lines featuring his signature use of a cello bow. Lighting design by Bruno Poet elevated the music, as LED lights, coordinated screens and CGI were used to constantly transform the scene.
During the second half of the set, post-intermission, the band began playing from behind one of the screens, where they became part of the landscape. Aquamarine light showered the stage as "Sæglópur" captivated the audience. Sigur Rós not only excel at sheer beauty, but catharsis too. Their music isn't always traditionally gorgeous or pleasing; deeper into the set, the band employed a propulsive intensity for "Ný batterí" from 1999's Ágætis byrjun and the monstrous "Kveikur." Some first-night-of-tour jitters were evident throughout the set, as drummer and multi-instrumentalist Orri Páll Dýrason flubbed a piano chord during a slower number in an endearing way, but the band took these setbacks in stride, laughed them off and continued on.
Their performance demonstrated that the band are at a point in their career where they can play the songs they want to instead of attempting to please the crowd, which the room evidently appreciated. Sigur Rós used their music to sooth challenge, and uplift those in attendance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre last night (September 18), showing that over 20 years in, they remain a group who are true to themselves, giving so much to fans in the process.