Concert Reviews

Sigur Ros Brought Us Back to the Womb With a Comforting Show At the Winspear

Sigur Ros soothed us with a cathartic show on Wednesday night at the Winspear.
Sigur Ros soothed us with a cathartic show on Wednesday night at the Winspear. Preston Jones
Stepping inside the Winspear Opera House Wednesday night was like entering a womb. That sensation only intensified as Icelandic post-rock group Sigur Ros filtered onto the stage — adorned with strands of an indeterminate material, stretching from floor to ceiling — and began playing its songs, alternately abrasive and alluring.

The four men were frequently shrouded in hazy shadows but just as often became distinctly clear amid naked, eye-watering blasts of light. They moved about the stage, surrounded by lightbulbs on poles that pulsed and glowed, and spoke very little over the course of more than two hours to the rapt, near-capacity audience gathered in front of them.

It had been nearly five years since Sigur Ros — vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jonsi Birgisson, bassist and multi-instrumentalist Georg Holm, synth player, pianist and multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson and drummer and multi-instrumentalist Olafur Olafsson — last performed in Dallas, and the band is in the midst of a brief world tour to mark the 20th anniversary of its third album, ( ), or more commonly, The Untitled Album.

Such is their presentation and extensive catalog, however, that the demarcation of years can seem an afterthought. These songs, opening like exquisite, well-tended flowers, seem to exist inside and outside of time simultaneously.

Indeed, so much of watching Sigur Ros perform is built upon sensation, as the song lyrics are frequently in Hopelandic, a language comprising more sounds than words, conveying meaning through feeling. Jonsi, the quartet’s magnetic singer, is gifted with a falsetto that can stop time, hanging in the air as it takes your breath away. It mingled and melted into the wall of sound he and his bandmates conjured Wednesday.

An early highlight, the nearly 10-minute “Svefn-g-englar” (the title roughly translates to “sleep angels”), built to a majestic climax as Jonsi sang the refrain again and again in a keening cry, an articulation of beauty almost beyond comprehension. (In a deft touch I’ve not seen other rock acts attempt at the Winspear, Sigur Ros incorporated the venue’s “falling stars” chandelier into its lighting design a few times, deepening the intimacy between performer and venue.)

The video screen behind the band would come alive with visuals mirroring the moods of the songs performed — “Smaskifa,” which concluded the first set, amped things up even further by syncing Olafsson’s drumbeats to the stage lights, creating a dazzling, explosive effect — but the focus was never far from the sounds emanating from the stage. The evening was split in two by a 20-minute intermission, which gave some time to reflect on just how much of a badly needed balm this evening was.

Its music’s healing properties helped alleviate, however temporarily, the pervasive feeling of gloom which can be hard to shake, being alive in the here and now.

tweet this

It's no secret the news out of Texas, in particular, has been grim in the last 72 hours, and filing into another public space Wednesday — now, as ever, brings on thoughts of whether we're a target — felt a bit like a mild act of defiance.

But the soothing nature of Sigur Ros (scan any comments section on the band’s YouTube videos, and there is no shortage of individuals praising its music’s healing properties) helped alleviate, however temporarily, the pervasive feeling of gloom that can be hard to shake, being alive in the here and now.

Even during the night’s most bombastic intervals — the second set was packed with such jaw-slackening moments, as during “E-Bow” and the profoundly moving “Festival,” which brought many in the audience to their feet in ecstatic appreciation — there was comfort in catharsis, the submission to an act that can and does flood the senses in ways that can be difficult to fully articulate.

Absorbing the peerless brilliance of a Sigur Ros performance isn’t quite the equivalent of returning to the womb, but perhaps, it’s close enough.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Preston Jones is a Dallas-based writer who spent a decade as the pop music critic for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors honored his work three times, including a 2017 first place award for comment and criticism (Class AAAA). His writing has also appeared in the New York Observer, The Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, Central Track, Oklahoma Today and Slant Magazine.
Contact: Preston Jones