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Sigur Rós In Concert

Sigur Rós could be forgiven for sounding better on record than in concert. The Icelandic band's songs either billow out deliberately or stomp majestically, and in every case entail the building of layers upon intricate sonic layers. Plus, singer Jónsi — he of the otherworldly voice, singing mostly in a ghostly language of his own devising — is no Mick Jagger when it comes to calling attention to himself. He's created an air of shyly vulnerable mystery that seems antithetical to showmanship.

And yet it's not hyperbolic to suggest that Sigur Rós is one of the world's great live bands, creating a hypnotic, almost overwhelming experience. Just last year, that experience was documented in a gorgeous DVD/CD package called Inni, which showcases both Sigur Rós' epic sonic sweep and an ability to complement it with gripping, enveloping visuals. Now, the band is touring to support this year's gorgeous Valtari — making its first live appearances in four years — and playing career-spanning two-hour shows like this July 31 concert at New York City's Prospect Park as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn series.

The group's first album since 2008 — Jónsi released the effervescent and uplifting solo album Go in the interim — Valtari returns to the roots of Sigur Rós' moodily slow-building, almost impossibly pretty sound. Though it occasionally builds up to a furious clamor, most notably in "Varúð," Valtari floats around in a dreamy sweet spot: calming but portentous, with every moment milked for maximum drama and beauty. On the live stage in Brooklyn, Sigur Rós indulges in its specialty, as it fuses uncommon delicacy with uncommon power, while compromising neither.

Set List

  • "Ekki múkk"
  • "Varúð"
  • "Ný batterí"
  • "Í Gær"
  • "Vaka" (Untitled 1)
  • "Sæglópur"
  • "Svefn-g-englar"
  • "Viðrar vel til loftárása"
  • "Hoppípolla"
  • "Med blóðnasir"
  • "Olsen Olsen"
  • "Festival"
  • "Hafsól"
  • Encore:

  • "Glósóli"
  • "Popplagið" (Untitled 8)
  • Credits

    Audio engineers: Ed Haber, Josh Rogosin, Kristin Mueller and Damon Whittemore. Special thanks to Celebrate Brooklyn, BRIC Arts and Bowery Presents.

    Copyright 2012 WFUV

    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)