Sigur Rós at Electric Picnic
A thoroughly majestic performance...
Craig Fitzpatrick, 10 Sep 2012
Apparently the bow breaks every single show. And so it is again tonight, two years on from one of the most-talked about EP appearances in the festival’s history, that Jónsi, sonic architect-in-chief for Sigur Rós, slowly destroys the implement intended for a cello against the face of his guitar. From the speakers, churning, heavenly noise spills out across Stradbally. It’s a worthwhile sacrifice at the finale of a display that is typically transcendent for those who wish to lose themselves fully to it.
Much was made of the decision to wrap Friday’s Main Stage up with Sigur Rós, an act beloved by many, quite unlike any other, but still not quite a superstar, crowd-pleasing draw. Opinion was divided pre-gig between the devoted, ardent fans who knew something special was brewing and a more casual section half-thinking about high-tailing it to see Ed Sheeran. Well, those that departed missed out – the Icelandic post-rock act turned in a sublime performance. The perfect compliment to The xx, who had created a chilled, enjoyably woozy Main Stage atmosphere earlier on, Sigur Rós deepened the dream-like state to one of powerful intensity.
The bemused chatter from certain pockets of the field notwithstanding, the on-stage setting was beautiful, employing pared back visuals, glowing orange lanterns and silent movie effects. ‘Hoppípolla’ might be their most superlative piece, locating the divine point between otherworldly, allusive instrumentation and the immediacy of pop. ‘Glósóli’ is a masterpiece of anticipation and release, building and building vocally over toy piano tinkering leading to a climax of sound and vision, flashing lights and cymbal smashes. An enthralling moment, it is they have every single soul with them. Over the course of their set, the thought occurs once or twice that a slightly more intimate tent setting might have suited them better. But their impact is phenomenal nonetheless – people standing with their hands over the mouths in sheer awe, others holding up their phones to share the ethereal songs with faraway friends, like Chuck Berry getting a cellular snatch of Marty McFly’s guitar in Back To The Future. It’s not just a new sound but an entirely singular one – there is no doubt that Sigur Rós are on a plateau of their own. Quite literally, no one else is speaking their invented language.
In truth, it is a fantastic thing that this uncompromising act can reach an audience of this scale, make their fans’ weekend and hopefully convert a few more intrigued spectators. It’s not festival revelry and sing-alongs, but it is thoroughly majestic. And that’s more than enough.