Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Show Review + Photos + Setlist: Jonsi Casts a Spell Over the Pageant, Tuesday, November 2

Posted By on Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 9:00 AM

(A review of the opener, Mountain Man, is here.)

Jonsi at the Pageant - TODD OWYOUNG
  • Todd Owyoung
  • Jonsi at the Pageant

Catharsis. That's the first word that comes to mind after last night's Jónsi show at the Pageant. The Sigur Rós vocalist/frontman reimagined the songs from his solo debut, Go, in conjunction with a stunning light and video show. The combination was nothing short of jaw-dropping, a concert that was emotionally draining in all the right ways.

Wearing a red-and-gray plaid shirt draped with long fringe, Jónsi began the night on an acoustic guitar, playing the stripped-down "Stars in Still Water." Things picked up immediately with "Hengilás," which spiraled skyward on a bed of taffy-pulled organ, lightly bowed percussion, and Jónsi's forest-creature yelps and choirboy enunciation. The entire venue fell silent under the song's spell.

View a slideshow of Jonsi/Mountain Man at the Pageant

The tour's accompanying bells and whistles exacerbated the emotional heights. For "Hengilás," a translucent, Japanese-esque backdrop of woodland creatures and forestry images (and two smaller screens featuring butterflies at the foot of the stage) slowly disintegrated in cinematic flames of fire. Flickering sepia-toned footage of Jónsi and the band -- think decaying Super-8 film - appeared during "Icicle Sleeves." During "Animal Arithmetic," an army of chalk-like ants scurried across the screen. The light show was impeccable as well; the hues ranged from daybreak golden light to melancholy backlit spotlights.

On his solo work, Jonsi's vocal delivery is urgent and full of purpose; the languid, gauzy, wordless crooning found on his Sigur Rós singing isn't quite as emphasized. His four-piece backing band reinforced this last night. Drummer Thorvaldur Thór Thorvaldsson in particular was an asset: He attacked the kit with precise ferocity - and with such speed that the beats blurred together into slurring clatters -- but had the talent to use restraint as well. As "Icicle Sleeves" segued right into "Kolniður," he pounded out a throbbing, solitary bass-drum beat; a lone spotlight lit him up and faded immediately, in time to the rhythms of the funeral-like march.

Two members of Jonsi's backing band - TODD OWYOUNG
  • Todd Owyoung
  • Two members of Jonsi's backing band

Jónsi mainly switched between acoustic guitar and piano, with the occasional detour into ukulele or percussion. His bandmates - especially keyboardist/pianist/percussionist Ólafur Björn Ólafsson -- added rich, evocative notes to this simple base. At several points, the group huddled around percussion instruments at the back of the stage to create shimmering, mystical textures. The antique music box twinkling in particular was full of sweet, childhood nostalgia.

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