Friday 30th August 2013 – Sigur Ros, Poliça and Daughter @ Live From Jodrell Bank, Cheshire.
It’s hard to think of a band more suited to the epic, awe-inspiring surroundings of the Jodrell Bank Observatory than Sigur Ros. The Icelandic trio’s post-rock music is ethereal, mountainous and otherworldly – beguiling sounds that are in perfect harmony with the stellar setting. The sixth instalment of Live from Jodrell Bank always promised to be very special and it didn’t disappoint.
After an afternoon imbibing all the excellent science attractions and, of course, the local ales, our first musical port of call is with London trio Daughter. Belying any preconceptions you might have about ‘twee’ indie-folk acts, this is a band with real musical prowess capable of such thunderous yet poignant sounds as the headliners. Simmering with emotion, velvet voiced band lynchpin Elena Tonra commands your attention as her bandmates Igor and Remi patiently build up the atmospherics on anthems like ‘Smother’ and the set undoubted zenith ‘Youth’. Incredible stuff.
While Minneapolis’s Poliça don’t quite reach the same dizzy peaks as their predecessors (or successors), they fit seamlessly onto the bill. A heady brew of angular indie riffs washed with swathes of voluminous electronica, front woman Channy Leaneagh busts some serious moves and immediately wins over the rapidly swelling Jodrell crowd. True, some songs fail to deliver on the promise of their opening synth stabs, but tunes like ‘Dark Star’ are ‘Lay Your Cards Out’ are masterclasses in moody electro-indie delivered with urgency and panache.
Now becoming a Jodrell Bank Live tradition, the slow rotation of the 250ft Lovell Telescope behind the stage heralds the arrival of headliners Sigur Ros as black darkness descends. Smoke machines billow clouds across the crowd and galactic images are beamed onto the giant dish as the trio kick off with the slow-building ‘Yfirborð’. It’s a jaw-dropping spectacle.
Despite having just dispatched the heaviest record of their two-decade career – the brilliant ‘Kveikur’ – the trio, flanked by an impressive string and horn section, slowly ease their way into the set gradually finding their groove. ‘Glósóli’ is typically gorgeous, ‘Vaka’ is as spine tingling and mesmeric as ever and beautiful newie ‘Ísjaki’ is fast becoming a true Sigur Ros classic. As always, talking is kept at a minimum except for ever-captivating, bow wielding frontman Jonsi quipping: “Nice place!”
Gradually building with momentum, after a breathtaking sensory onslaught of ‘Ný Batterí’, ‘E-bow’ and the transcendental ‘Varúð’, the almost hypnotized Jodrell crowd suddenly spring into life as the opening bars of ‘Hoppipolla’ chime out. Grown men jump around us jump with glee, singing the nonsensical words – a rare moment of almost childlike abandon in a breathtaking set that predominately leaves us agape and transfixed with wide-eyed wonder.
As always with Sigur Ros sets, the Icelanders save the best until last. With blue piercing the night sky, Jonsi delicately sings the soul-piercing opening lines of ‘Festival’ as the field stands in silent reverence. Kicking up a gear, the track builds into a cacophony musical ecstasy – a tune that somehow takes on extra poignancy following its usage in THAT finalscene in Danny Boyle’s movie 127 Hours.
However, if we thought ‘Festival’ was the set apex then we were wholly wrong. Returning for the first encore track ‘Brennisteinn’, the band seem to conjure up the earth-shaking spirit of volcanoes and earthquakes such is the musical grandiosity. Traditional set closer ‘Untitled 8’ (aka ‘Popplagið’), takes things even further – a 15 minute onslaught of post-rock magnificence that builds and builds to almost un-scalable peaks with Jonsi hunched over his guitar and drummer Orri Páll Dýrason getting lost in the ever intensifying pounding rhythms. As set closers go, ‘Popplagið’ is pretty much perfection.
A truly astonishing night picture framed by the perfect backdrop, tonight will be entrenched in our memories for a long time. Roll on Live from Jodrell Bank 2014!
Sigur Ros played:
7. Ný Batterí
11. Með Blóðnasir
12. Olsen Olsen
Photos: Tom Martin