Perhaps someone told Sigur Ros that their unique brand of epic, orchestral post-rock would be greeted with projectiles from the audience packed into the theatrical confines of Wolverhampton Civic Hall. In any case, for the band’s first UK tour in five years their choice to open the set with a giant gauze screen between them and the enthralled crowd creates an odd sense of detachment during the show’s opener, new song Yfirboro.
However, once the screen drops, along with the bizarre images projected upon them, the show moves from style over substance to the euphoric, nerve-jarring experience for which the band has become so recognised. Vocalist Jonsi Birgisson has said the as-yet unnamed upcoming album will be distinctly heavier than its predecessor Valtari, and the crashing percussion of Brennisteinn illustrates as much.
There have been difficult times for the band of late, with keyboardist Kjartan Svensson leaving after 15 years. But backed by an 11-strong orchestral accompaniment any holes that might currently be puncturing the lineup are unrecognisable. Birgisson’s vocals are arguably unmatched in their beauty, with their soaring tenderness sounding sometimes like he is on the brink of tears.
Sigur Ros have always been at their finest when serene melodies are gradually intensified into enormous, almost terrifying crescendos. None of these are more dramatic than crowd favourite Glosoli, which comes closest to snapping the 3,000-strong audience out of their collective daze. Hopipolla, doomed to be forever associated with TV montages, is nevertheless a highlight of a euphoric two hours.
The band’s emotional effect on their audience is palpable; beside me, a tearful fan is hugged by her other half. But as she and plenty others will tell you, it’s all part of the Sigur Ros experience.