It's been seven years since Icelandic post-rockers (and Game of Thrones extras in training) Sigur Rós performed in Nashville — having last sold out the Ryman on Valentine's Day, 2006, in a matter of minutes. By all regards, it was the kind of spectacle performance that lucky attendees/smug jerks have been falling all over themselves to praise ever since, building into a fever pitch that finally broke on Friday night when Sigur Rós, at long last, returned to town. It's not that we were totally skeptical, but seven years of hype is a helluva high bar.
Despite our best efforts to catch Julianna Barwick — who cancelled her own headlining tour to jump on the road with Sigur Rós last month — the traffic leading into The Woods had other plans. Remember Starwood? Remember how every time you went to a show at Starwood, you swore that you’d never go back because the traffic was a living nightmare? This is that, but multiplied by a billion. We spent at least 45 minutes stuck on a two-lane road dotted with McMansions, causing us to miss Barwick entirely. Bummer.
By the time we'd actually made it to The Woods, scoffed at paying $4 for water and attempted to stand in six different holes occupied by folding chairs, the lights dimmed and the band, taking zero pause for fanfare, jumped right into a track off their recent Kveikur. And finally, we understood what all of our friends had been yapping about for the past seven years.
The thing about seeing Sigur Rós live is that it's a little like going to the opera for hipsters. You don't necessarily need to understand what they're singing about (and since they're singing in either Icelandic or a made-up gibberish language that may as well be Icelandic, you won't) — it's about the experience of the concert as a whole, surrounded by a bunch of supes emosh indie-rock nerds in the middle of a forest clearing. This was one of the most wildly captivating concerts we've been to in a long time.
Yeah, The Spin would have loved to hear literally anything off Ágætis Byrjun — the band mostly stuck to Kveikur, with choice cuts off ( ) and Takk making up another big chunk of the 14-song set. And sure, the video screen playing apocalyptic nature footage and the finest iTunes visualizations money can buy was a little goofy. But we're not sure if changing any of that would have actually made the show better. Even if Sigur Rós only played “Two Princes” slowed down 500 percent for an hour, you'd still get an almost absurdly layered performance wherein a man plays a guitar with a violin bow that makes noise that sounds like it came from another dimension. And we still would've loved it.
And then it was over. Thanks to a noise ordinance law, dudes in construction gear were packing up the stage before the clock had even struck 10:30 p.m. Which, really? Come on, Whites Creek, get it together. Anyway. After being herded toward the parking lot, fighting more traffic and winding our way toward East Nashville, fireworks started to explode in front of us. You can tell us all day long that it was for Southern Ground, but we're going to believe otherwise.