Sigur Ros @ The O2, Dublin – 16th November

The civilised and salubrious surroundings of the O2 hosted the return of Iceland’s most celebrated musical export, Sigur Ros, on Saturday evening. First up was Swedish trio I Break Horses who arrived on the back of a debut album that is something of an undiscovered gem; Hearts is a heady brew of dreamy shoegaze/electronica and was one of the best debut releases of 2011.

Despite battling against extremely poor sound, they managed to demonstrate enough promise to suggest that their new album ‘Chiaroscuro,’ due for release in 2014, could be a belter. By the time they closed their short set with the icy synths of ‘Winter Beats’, they had all but ironed out the sonic kinks that had dogged the earlier numbers. It was a brief but captivating performance, and one that whets the appetite for a return to these shores in a smaller, more intimate venue.

What can be said about Sigur Ros as a live experience that hasn’t already been said before? Tonight, they were at their mind blowing best, with a cleverly conceived set that mixed some older classics with cuts from their most recent album Kveikur.  Jonsi -Sigur Ros

From the moment they arrived on stage, it was clear it was going to be one of those special gigs; for ninety minutes they held the capacity crowd spellbound with a set that moved from magical and mesmerising to terrifyingly beautiful with consummate ease.

Quite simply, as a live entity they are peerless – the attention to detail ensures that every song is a self-contained epic with its own unique lighting design and dazzling visual aesthetic. Jónsi stands centre stage – the dark avenging angel hunched and motionless, his silhouetted figure sawing away on his guitar, coaxing heaven and hell from just six strings. His voice remains a thing of unearthly, otherworldly beauty, an instrument that provokes awed amazement.

Behind him, the band are joined by a small choir, together with brass and string sections ensuring that these songs sound as monumentally huge as they should do, filling up the cavernous spaces of the O2 with this glorious noise. The high points of the set are many – the trio of songs from arguably their best album Takk are greeted with a rapturous response, the crowd warming to ‘Hoppípolla’ in particular.

They dug deep into the back catalogue with the joyous ‘Olsen, Olsen’ and the stunning ‘Svefn-g-englar’ from their breakthrough second album Ágætis byrjun. The operatic ‘Varúð’ was simply astonishing while set closer ‘Popplagið’ left the audience speechless, building from a sparse opening, to a pounding, pulsating climax, complete with eye popping visuals and guitars that threatened to lift the roof off the venue.

Sigur Ros are a special band making music that connects with people in a very unique way. There are no patronising, crowd pleasing gestures, they don’t tell us how much they love us, they just play this celestial, beautiful music and eyes widen and jaws drop at the majesty that unfolds before us. One would be hard pressed to find a single soul who left the O2 on Saturday night that had not been overwhelmed by the sheer spectacle and power of the greatest live band on the planet right now.

Astounding.

(Photographs by kind permission of James Murray, stilpix)