SIGUR ROS @ Walt Disney Concert Hall review


NIGHT 1 @ Walt DisNey Concert Hall


I hadn’t been to Disney Hall for a few years. The last time I had was when Joanna Newsom played there almost ten years ago. One thing is for sure: Disney Hall is probably the best venue for music in Los Angeles. It’s also a feat of modern architecture, and every seat is very close to the stage. It’s a great setting for some potential spectacular events.

And so I was there at the first night of Reykjavik Festival. Sigur Ros is one of the best international bands, and one of the best known Icelandic acts. I have seen them a few times before but not in such an upscale venue, and not backed by the LA Philharmonic. I felt like some people were dressed formal, but being LA there were also some shorts and baseball caps. I hadn’t seen any orchestral music for quite a number of years, so I was interested in where contemporary classical music was, beyond stuff I was familiar with like John Cage, Pierre Boulez, and Phillip Glass. As I look at the schedule in months to come I see well known names like Schubert and Mahler, and of course, John Adams, who seems to have had resurgence this past year. So everything looked in place for a splendid evening.

The evening began with two minimal pieces by Icelandic composers, Hlynur Adils Vilmarsson and Daniel Bjarnason. Vilmarsson’s “bd” consisted of violin and cello players sliding their bows over the strings. The lack of conventional musical notes was interesting. Bjarnason’s “Emergence” was bizarrely minimal and strange as well, and very unlike what was to come. I should mention that this night was curated by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Daníel Bjarnason.

After a break, Sigur Ros came on stage with the LA Philharmonic. Sigur Ros is now a trio. They performed eight songs together, including orchestrations by Dan Deacon, Owen Pallett, and Anna Meredith, and others. This event combined the rock sound of Sigur Ros with the expansive sound of a forty piece orchestra. The musical peak was somewhere in the middle when they played the most familiar songs like “Fljotavik” and “Staralfur.” By the end of this second set people on the main floor were bobbing their heads back and forth like they were watching a heavy metal gig, and by the last song, most were standing. It was a sight to behold.

There was another needed break. Sigur Ros came back as only a trio. They played a more standard format and played songs from all of their albums during the night. Seven more songs with intense lights and volume, and causing some of the hardcore fans to get back up on their feet. The lead singer Jonsi jumped out towards the audience and knocked over a light stand. It was a three hour classical rock journey, and Sigur Ros delivered the goods this night. Hope to see them again sometime. 

Sigur Ros Photo credit: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging