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Sigur Rós takes a big Midland crowd on a spectacular emotional ride

Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson and the Icelandic band, Sigur Rós performed Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland.
Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson and the Icelandic band, Sigur Rós performed Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. Special to the Star

A typical Sigur Rós concert is as spectacular as any, maybe more: a blitzkrieg of lights, shadows, fog, silhouettes, videos and other riveting visuals that embellish the music — a dynamic swirl of cacophony and euphony, all bound by the unearthly voice of vocalist Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson.

Wednesday night, the trio from Reykjavik, Iceland, thrilled a sold-out crowd of about 2,300 at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland with more than two hours of its trademark mix of experimental/art rock, a whirlwind mix of electronica, New Age/ambient and heavy post-rock.

The 16-song set list drew from across the band’s discography, which goes back nearly 20 years and comprises seven full-length albums. It visited most frequently from its not-titled 2002 album — “( )” — featuring five of its tracks, and all five drew a cheerful response from a crowd that was enthralled and attentive through most of the show. Several times the room was stilled to a hush as a song came to a slow, quiet finish.

A Sigur Rós show requires an audience to pay extra attention to each song’s nuances and changes and varied arrangements. There is a base consistency to many tracks that can render a sense of monotony to the casual listener over the course of two hours.

Songs are arranged from a small array of keyboards, synthesizers, drums, bass, guitar and Jonsi’s other signature: his bowing of an electric guitar. Thunderous drummer Orri Páll Dýrason is their most animated live performer, exhibiting both physically and musically the traits of some obvious influences, including John Bonham and Keith Moon.

For “Óveður,” the new track that opened the evening’s second set, the trio gathered at the middle of the stage, perched behind a scrim of mesh and amid lighting fixtures and various meal sculptures and structures and in front of a video screen that hemorrhaged sights and images all night. Above an electronic drum beat, the throb of a bass guitar and a synthesized sounds, Jonsi launched his angelic, supernal voice, a falsetto that sounds like a mix of Jon Anderson (Yes) and Enya.

He uses it to maximum effect, taking the music that storms and swirls around him into other dimensions. At the end of “Festival,” into the thick silence of the theater, a cappella, he held a piccolo-ish note for upwards of 20 seconds or so, wavering once only faintly. A second after he finished, the theater erupted into prolonged, joyous applause.

A Sigur Rós concert is an emotional ride. Songs arouse various emotional reactions: sorrow, melancholy, grief, bliss, redemption, serenity, love. A few adopted sexual pulses and rhythms, starting slowly and gently, climbing to a frenzy, a crescendo, then easing into a resolution, an afterglow.

The show comprised two one-hour sets and a 20-minute intermission. By the time the band was taking its second bow, applauding its appreciative audience, most people in the place, band included, looked like they’d been on a long, thrilling, emotional joyride, a spectacle indeed.

Set list

Á; Ekki Múkk; Samskeyti; E-Bow; Dauðalagið; Glósóli; Smáskifa. Intermission. Óveður; Starálfur; Sæglópur; Ný Batterí; Vaka; Festival; Kveikur; Fljótavík; Popplagið.