TORONTO - A full moon. A gentle breeze. A beach with kayakers in the lake. The city’s skyline twinkling in the distance. And otherworldy orchestral-ambient-rockers Sigur Ros providing the evening’s stunning soundtrack.
All that was missing was the mother ship calling the Icelandic band - and quite possibly its followers - home.
So it went on Wednesday night at Echo Beach, the nifty smaller sister venue to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre next door, as Sigur Ros played before a sold out crowd of 4,000 with actual sand on the ground around several grassy knolls and elevated wooden platforms.
There was so much dreamy atmosphere it was almost impossible to take it all in.
Anticipation was high for the group’s return, their first on these shores in four years, and with a new 2012 album, Valtari (not to be confused with the ‘50s hit Volare), in their back pocket no less.
Valtari is translated to mean “steamroller” but that’s hardly the vibe of either the album or Wednesday’s night’s superior if super chill concert in support of it.
Singer-guitarist Jon Thor “Jonsi” Birgisson, bassist Georg Holm, guitarist Kjartan Sveinsson, and drummer Orri Pall Dyrason, augmented by trios of string and horn players and a three sided backdrop of projected film and images, cast a slow, seductive spell over the audience - with many couples in attendance - performing their emotional, atmospheric music in either Icelandic or their made up language Hopelandic.
It’s was all so beautiful sounding even if you never had a clue what Jonsi, dressed in a red-trimmed black military jacket with fringed sleeves, was actually singing about in that sweet sounding falsetto while bent over his guitar with a cello bow.
Romantic and mysterious, it was even sedating at times.
When you left the show after an hour and 50 minutes, you certainly felt a lot calmer than when you went in.
Surprisingly, Sigus Ros kept the material from Valtari to a minimum, preferring instead to perform earlier songs and fan favourites like mellow slow builders that often ended in exciting climaxes - Ny Batteri, Vaka, Sfven-g-englar, Hoppipolla, and Popplagio (Untitled #8) to name a few.
It was only the fourth show of the band’s North American tour and Jonsi thanked the crowd in English for coming to support them after the long break away.
Certainly, his stellar voice was no worse for wear, pitch perfect, and insanely ethereal at all times - at one point he even sang into the pickup of his guitar - as if he was calling out to space for an answer, and getting cheers and applause from an enthralled earthbound audience instead.