Although this is a cultural blog and I sometimes write about music, you may have noticed that I've never reviewed a rock concert. This is because I do not go to them. Even in my teens and early 20's, I rarely went to hear rock music live. The couple of big concerts I saw (Wham! and the Jacksons, if you must know) I went to because friends were going. I think it must be a mix of hating crowds and feeling like I'm just too dorky to really rock out, even to bands I like.
One of my favorites of the last few years is the Icelandic group Sigur Ros, led by angelic-voiced Jonsi (who also has a great solo album, Go). I'd heard they were amazing live, so when a younger, cooler friend of mine suggesting going to see them, my first thought was, "it sounds fun, but I can't". My second thought was, "Why can't I?"
So I bought a ticket and headed across Paris to the Zenith, a cavernous space in the Parc de la Villette with a large standing-only section in front of the stage. For those of you who've never heard Sigur Ros' music, the words "ethereal", "hypnotic" and "sweeping" come to mind. Jonsi has a pure falsetto voice and sings in a mix of Icelandic, English and gibberish that is pretty much incomprehensible, so it's all about the mood.
If you visit the band's site (sigur-ros.co-uk) you'll notice that they put a big emphasis on visuals and even sponsored a collection of a dozen experimental films inspired by their music. So I did have expectations that the show would be as visually entrancing as the music, and I wasn't disappointed.
The concert began with the group playing behind a semi-transparent curtain on which were projected dreamlike images perfectly timed with the music, punctuated by dramatic lighting. At a certain point, the curtain dropped and the videos continued on a large screen behind them.
The thing was so tightly choreographed, there was no room for chitchat. But the lack of talking to the audience, which I generally like, contributed to the feeling that we had somehow ended up inside a 3D science-fiction movie and were travelling across the universe together.
My friend and I started off sitting in the stands, but he suggested we move down to the floor to be closer. While I generally don't like standing for a long time (because I'm old), he was right that being down center was an even more intense musical and visual experience. The only downside was how loud everyone was screaming on the floor. Luckily, earlier I had invested in a pair of special earplugs (because, you know, I'm old).
But apparently not too old to enjoy an amazing live rock concert and I highly recommend doing the same if Sigur Ros comes to a town near you.