SIGUR ROS exists in The Pop Cop’s world in a way that no other band does. We have absolutely no idea what most of the Icelanders’ songs are called without looking them up since the Sigur Ros listening experience invariably involves putting on their albums from start to finish. A rare thing these days.
The band have done away with their string and brass members for this tour, but it’s testament to the holy racket these four guys can make all on their own that the lack of orchestration was really only noticeable at Glasgow’s Carling Academy in just two songs in the two-hour set, Hoppípolla and Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur.
They open with the eerie restraint of Svefn-G-Englar, which it’s easy to forget was the Sigur Ros signature tune for a good five years pre-Planet Earth. Compare that to their latest album’s euphoric crowd-pleaser, Við Spilum Endalaust, which finds the group traversing comfortably in three-and-a-half-minute pop shoes.
This new-found confidence extends to the once painfully shy Jónsi Birgisson, who at last seems to be coming out of his shell as a frontman. He encourages the crowd to join in the “oh-oh-oh-ohs” during Með Blóðnasir and gets an enthusiastic response to his request for some flamenco handclapping on Gobbledigook, easily the most memorable song of the night as Icelandic post-rock support band For A Minor Reflection are invited to the stage to pound a few extra drums before the ceiling bursts open in an explosion of technicolour ticker-tape.
The gig is full of such gratifying crescendos. Festival morphs into a rock instrumental, cymbals crashing gleefully, and Orri Dýrason’s drumming speeds up so fast during Hafsól that a bulky speaker shakes off its ledge and topples onto the back of his shoulders. He doesn’t even flinch.
Out of the noise comes touching beauty. The three-way piano/xylophone intro to Sæglópur is heavenly, while All Alright is afforded a reverential pin-drop silence from 2,500 devotees.
That soon makes way for the epic, 12-minute finale of Popplagið (Untitled #8). Bassist Georg Hólm drives the staccato rhythm, Orri batters his instrument as though he’s plugged in and Jónsi closes his eyes and howls into the microphone before dramatically sweeping his guitar to the front of the stage looking like a cross between a World War II general and Dracula.
As the final note is struck, beads of sweat are dripping down the necks of all four guys. They looked exhausted. Sigur Ros haven’t even remembered to tell the crowd they’ve just played their last song, but their exit is swiftly followed by a final return to the stage for a farewell bow. My god, they deserve it.