Jónsi | 11.02.10

The catchy pacing makes the record a bit more accessible to a listener who perhaps has little patience for some of the more glacial aspects of Sigur Rós’s sound.

The Pageant, St. Louis
The man who’s perhaps most responsible for Iceland’s enigmatic, glacial reputation in music, Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson (pronounced “Yōn-see”), has taken a break as frontman for the five-piece soundscape factory Sigur Rós to perform solo work from his debut solo effort, Go. Similar to Sigur Rós, Go contains all the post-rock trademarks we’ve become accustomed to, employing vibrant strings and eclectic percussion during explosive choruses, juxtaposed by comparatively slow, plaintive verses.
His sound does take a departure from Sigur Rós in a few important ways. Go features Birgisson’s vocals and distinctive falsetto innovatively throughout the CD. In the record’s opener, “Go Do,” scattered vocal honks and chirps augment intricate percussion, in addition to driving the song along as a main component. Generally, more succinct song structures lead to more abbreviated pieces, as there are no songs longer than five-and-a-half minutes. The catchy pacing makes the record a bit more accessible to a listener who perhaps has little patience for some of the more glacial aspects of Sigur Rós’s sound. Also of note, Go is completely in English, the first time Jónsi has done so for an entire album.
Live, these songs taken on an entirely new personage, complete with visuals and costumes. Jónsi’s multicolored garb was accented with long feathers that dripped down from each arm like an injured cardinal. He later draped a headdress of the tangled feathers across his forehead, which swayed from side to side as he convulsively crooned. Behind the stage and to either side of center stage, vibrant exploding clouds of color were projected along to the more cacophonous moments of the evening, contributing to the night’s theatricality.
The set started out slowly, with Jónsi swiping an acoustic guitar plainly through a selection of the album’s more serene tracks. This served to both feature his impressive voice and set up the more bombastic material on the way.
One of the most memorable moments of the evening came in the night’s third song. As the set was beginning to gain steam, “Around Us” rose to a clattering climax, in which percussionist Thorvaldur Thór Thorvaldsson (aka “Doddi”) went berserk on an assortment of drums, cymbals and pads. With rapid-fire precision, Doddi thwacked and pinged his kit in a tornado of sound.
The madness concluded with all the lights in the venue snapping off as Doddi’s last pitter-pat hit a snare rim. Only Doddi’s foot kept a solitary (and abruptly slow) beat on the bass drum. A light pulsed from the drum with each beat, illuminating the stage with yellow streaks and creating the world’s slowest strobe light. He persisted for about 40 seconds in an impressive display of control over the captive audience whose hushed coos were hypnotized by the cinematic pulsing. Then the song simply faded out.
The moment perfectly encapsulated the evening by displaying exactly what it wasn’t. Had Sigur Rós been on stage, swarms of strings, loads of reverbed guitar and a carpet bombing of percussion would have immediately followed the painfully slow, yet impulsively interesting bass drum solo. But that isn’t what Jónsi’s Go Tour is about. He trades the towering grandiosity that’s made him famous for a simpler, more intimate sound. The Go Tour may not have blistered patrons’ ears with an orgy of sound, but it managed to leave its mark by satisfying an appetite for moody, earnest songs performed with a uniquely theatrical flair. | Glen Elkins
Note: Go Live, the live DVD, was filmed during Jónsi and Co.’s final dress rehearsal before the first night of the tour. It is available for preorder on his website. The DVD comes in both digital and physical versions and includes the filmed performance and a CD of selected tracks.

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