Tonight's show (25 July) could go down as one of those 'were you there' gigs. And in this case, many Sydney folk can say "yes we were”.
The Hordern is completely packed. As I enter (slightly late as I got a late call up to review this gig) Sigur Rós are in the middle of Act One of their two-part show.
There's a lot to convey of what was experienced, so fasten your seat belts.
Also, expect 'Game of Thrones' references which is timely and fair enough. They were the house band at Joffrey's wedding after all. This gig was better though.
Acid reverb opens the echoing truth of the universe. These words are already written and read. We worg into an eagle gliding over hectares of snow on a forbidden planet. No doors to hold. No walls to man. The sounds of trees that fell when we weren't looking.
When last I witnessed Sigur Rós, at Electric Picnic '08, it was an all bells/ whistles show with amiina, one of the most astonishingly perfect live shows I've ever seen. Maybe even too perfect. Not a note or pause out of place. Tonight is my first gaze at this three-eyed raven.
With the departure of pianist Kjartan 'Kjarri' Sveinsson in 2013, their sound has galvanized toward the rock more. And it's filthier, more vulnerable. It's better. On some of the high notes there is some hoarseness. Castrato's first shave. The scars of battle.
Other bands have made the transition from four members to three. Battles being a notable success. Ash went from three to four to three. Take That (ok, five to four then to three) not so much. The Bee Gees had it nailed from the start. Sigur Rós sound like an orchestra still. And no other band has Jónsi for a singer.
Centre stage he stands bowing lava from his guitar, and that voice that turns everything to angels, with a floppy, mullet mohican and a sensible jumper his mammy might have knitted in their close-knit community that jails their corrupt bankers and shit.
Flanked on one side by the drummer brandishing all types of beaters and sticks to push out any colour you like rhythms. On the other by the grounding bass sounding earthly tones past and present.
Just bass notes guide the hull of this long boat out on the Sea of Hordern.
These sonic pioneers, sons of sons of sons of men who sailed from Scandinavia, robbing the best looking Irish women from the north of Ireland (DNA tests will back me up on this, are you right there Bjork?) and landing in a land of ice to forge new music.
Voyage sails are filled with squalls of complex function maths airs rising from Jónsi's Les Paul. Dissonant harmonics. Vertical aurora borealis green lights bisect at angles blinking messages in Ogham lettering. Spelling it out clearly. An eBow bass moment, an instrument swap between drummer and bass, and Act 1 ends.
It was all pretty blessed. Don't ask me about song titles. Insert names of miscellaneous Icelandic volcanoes here. As we step out for a breather, I overhear an exchange between two local arse-wankers: "Oh they'll be playing all the hits in part 2." "They better be." Ah lads, for fuck sake. Exeunt.
Enter Georg, Jónsi and Orri.
For Act Two, I'm up the front. The stage is a triangle matrix of lights, its apex at the stage's focal point where the triumvirate have gathered behind the star cloth that bisects the stage. The opener is more electronic. Jónsi sings guitar less in his gallows. Snare beats on shocks of light arrows.
The lighting/ media guy is up for man of the match. How can you improve on Sigur Rós' tunes? Present them with epic visuals is how. He flicks a switch and we enter a widescreen backdrop of red planes of light cut by dry ice evolving, conjuring and complementing the breathing landscapes we are hearing. The ambition and grandeur of the production makes everyone feel better about the ticket price already.
Song two and they walk front of stage to their instruments in a defiant/ mean business/ game-on gesture. The crowd's roar lifts with them. If they make any more Star Treks they should totes have an Icelandic guy who only speaks through bowed guitar. "Commander Jónsi, open hailing frequencies!"
Bowed frequencies dance across an array of informed geometric 3D shapes. It is mesmerising, game changer, next-level shit. The visuals somehow keep getting better. The thinking face of god appearing in the '80s game 'Asteroids'. Information to perceive fore and aft.
Then right at the zenith of epicness, the sonics and visuals explode in unison like we entered the molten heart of the Sun.
Jónsi pulls freakish open-mouthed stares. The drummer ties his shoelace. A random, fun factual event on an otherwise unstoppable trajectory. Downward. He picks up some deep brushes made of T-rex eye lashes. Winter is coming. Decent into hell. Screaming at the cosmos. It climaxes impossibly. A few, last earnest strokes and he fucks the bow backstage on the last upward stroke. Frantic fingers pick and shove at the last notes. A trinity vocal line spells the end. Popplagið.
The audience erupts at the end. They bow, leave, we cheer them back on stage. They have to play something. But they don't. They bow, make hugging and clasped hand gestures and leave again. Kind of hard to follow that.
The piped music comes on. 'When You Wish Upon A Star' reverbed to the last. We needn't wish of course. We've all just flown through the sun.
Absolutely f@#%ing spellbinding.