An evening with Sigur Ros

Sigur Rós – Palladium, Cologne; October 13th, 2017

Sigur Rós are another band I was never interested in seeing live and yet spontaneously bought a ticket for. They had been on my mind since L. gave a raving review of their London show when I saw her two weeks ago. As I was checking the venue’s website for Saturday’s concert, I realized they were playing the previous day, sought and found a ticket (even below face value) and decided to give them a try. Their music never really spoke to me, but I have to admit I only checked out a few songs and I remember watching a show online and liking it. So here I was, still equally tired and high on emotion from the previous day’s Nick Cave show, waiting and unsure what to expect. After the first part I thought this was proof that Sigur Rós did not work for me, but after the second part I was happy I stayed and will file this under “all is well that ends well”.

Thanks to chaotic train connections (as usual 🙁 ) I arrived at the venue late and sweaty. Checked upstairs, but all the good spots on the balcony were taken so I settled down on the floor, somewhere in the middle. I was tired and thirsty, but for reasons I can no longer remember I chose not to get a drink and suffered in silence. When everyone got up, I realized most people in front of me were taller than I am so I didn’t really see much. Not the best conditions to begin with.

The first set started with very little light and low sound, then gradually built up. I thought the lighting was pretty and I didn’t mind the music, but it did not speak to me at all. I watched the band doing their thing completely detached and I could not even entertain myself with taking pictures, because I was in a bad spot to do so. So I stood, listened, watched and waited for… something to kick in, for the music to pick me up and carry me, but it never happened and about halfway through the set I just got bored. I could feel the drums and bass vibrating in my belly, but I felt nothing in my heart, the music did not resonate with me at all.

This did not come as a surprise, since the same had hsppened when I checked out their CD, I just had been hoping hearing them live would be different. It was not the band’s fault, their singing and playing was great, it just was not for me. Towards the end of the set though there was one piano driven song that I really liked so I decided to stay and give them one more chance.

During the break I finally got some water and immediately felt better. When I went back in I ended up a tiny bit further back and more to the left, but it turned out to be a much better spot. Finally I could see the full stage without people’s heads in the way. Much better for taking pictures too.

The second set started and I loved the lighting with background images that made me think of many different things. Watching those was something to get lost in. I also liked the music much better, it had more power, finally made me feel. I cheered for real when the first song ended and managed to focus from then on, letting the images in, following my imagination, seeing strage world in my mind.

The projections on the screen were a mix of concrete and abstract, turning heads with acupuncture needles, fields of sharp rocks or maybe just triangles and something that could have been pulsating blood as well as lava just to name a few. All in all I kept thinking they were mages from space, planets, space ships and such. The colors were beautiful too and everything was so well in tune with the music that it finally carried me.

I have no idea what they were singing, recognized a few words in English or Icelandic here and there, but not enough to make sense of them. I just let the music and the images wash over me and it worked. I am sure they did songs in their invented language too.

Once I found access to it, it didn’t matter that I was tired or could not understand the lyrics. All that mattared was allowing myself to go with the flow. At the end they thanked us in Icelandic (I think), played one last song and left the stage in the dark. They only came back for bows, with the word “takk” projected on the screen behind them. It was a good show after all and I am sure any fan must have loved it. As for me, it was a nice experience in the end, but I don’t think I need to repeat it.

Setlist

Á
Ekki Múkk
Glósóli
E-Bow
Dauðalagið
Fljótavík
Niður
Varða

Óveður
Sæglópur
Ný Batterí
Vaka
Festival
Kveikur
Popplagið

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Some people say it’s just rock and roll oh but it gets you right down to your soul

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Mitsubishi Electric Hall, Düsseldorf; October 12th, 2017

Nick Cave had somehow never made an appearance on my list of people to see live until I read a review of his movie ‘One more time with feeling’. Mind you, I still have not seen it, despite owning the DVD, but somehow that got me interested. I hesitated too long though and tickets for the Düsseldorf concert were already sold out by the time I decided to go. Luckily I managed to get one short notice at face value (hooray for ebay!). So on a Thursday night I found myself in third row at the former Philipshalle with no idea what to expect. And honestly, despite only hearing positive reviews, I would have never believed I’d get my mind blown by Nick Cave, but that is exactly what happened. “WOW!” does not even begin to describe it!

From the very first note the Bad Seeds played the energy in the room was palpable and the moment Nick Cave walked on stage he already held the audience in the palm of his hand. Every move, every sound he made was mesmerizing. Rarely have I seen such charisma paired with such, for lack of a better word, understatement. Nick Cave just is. He walks out, he is charming, but he is not trying too hard. He does whatever comes to mind, dances about, jumps towards the audience, literally leans into them, sings, screams, talks to us, seems touchable and untouchsble at the same time. I find it very hard to describe what was going on inside my head, I am not even sure I was thinking at all, but I know I was watching in awe, hardly able to take my eyes off him, reaching out when he came close, but almost afraid to touch. It was an out of this world experience.

During the concert I had too much fun to cry, but so many emotions built up that the tears came on the way home. Not all of the music was sad or melancholic, some was even rather wild. Despite not recognizing any of the songs or not fully understanding the lyrics, I felt them in my body and mind, like waves going through me. Goosebumps all over and my heart beating in rhythm with the music.

The band was bloody amazing too, especially the violinist and all of them played flawlessly. Yet I hardly noticed them most of the time, they merely provided the backdrop for the force of nature that Nick Cave is. Lights were used sparsely, but effectivly, just highlighting whoever needed to be highlighted and the projections on the big screen in the back created just the right atmosphere. I especially liked that they mostely used blue and green lights.

For the whole length of the stage there was a lower part in front, that I had thought Nick would walk on. So far, so usual. What was different though was a similar “walkway” accross from it and attached to the top of the barrier behind which we stood. I would guess it was 30 – 40 cm wide and as I soon learned only a big step or a jump away from the stage. Nick started the concert sitting on a stool, but got up halfway through the song, took one step and was almost amongst us. He used the full length of the walkway too, getting close to everyone at the front, holding out his hands for suppport, to touch or to conduct us. We gladly followed and obliged whenever asked to sing.

He leaned out a few times right were I stood, making some fans very happy by taking their hands. He looked at me a few times too and once I dared to make contact and touch his hand. Yes, he is of flesh and blood! One time he stood in front of two girls to my right for a while and one of them kept touching his legs. When the song was over he asked who molested him and joked “is this a safe space?”, then moved away a bit, but he came back later.

Somewhere in the middle of the set, time and space long forgotten they played two beautifully touching piano pieces, ‘Into my Arms’ and ‘Girl in Amber’. They were so intense, I almost forgot to breathe. The repetition of the line “Into my arms, oh Lord” became a mantra, repeated by us. All in all there was not that much singing along, at least not loudly, but I saw many people mouthing the lyrics. Nick picked key words sometimes and let us repeat them and once asked us to sing the chorus with him. Everything was beautiful and at times it was even funny like the moment when he incorporated Twitter and Instagram into a song or looked at somebody singing “and you got this shitty camera”. He was consantly on the move, often surprisingly quick as he jumped from the stage to the walkpath and back, getting into people’s faces. It was impossible not to be drawn in by his presence, yet he did all of it sort of calmly. A woman I talked to after the show described his demeanor as “unaufgeregt”. That word translates to unexcited, but that does not really transport the meaning. It fits though.

I was deeply impressed, found myself swaying with the music not knowing or caring where or when I was. The people around me where a mixture of first timers and long time fans and all of us were equally blow away by the performance. By the looks of it I’d say this was fan heaven. The was a rather excited young woman in front of me whom I thought might faint when he grabbed her hand at one point – the look on her face was pure joy mixed with disbelief – beautiful! To be fair, the first man whose hand Nick grabbed for support, had the identical look on his face. I had not counted on the concert being so emotional and I loved every minute of it. When the main set ended I had no idea how much time had passed, checked my watch and realized two hours were gone.

It was the first song of the encore I think when Nick went off the stage somewhere to my left and deeply into the audience, getting even closer than he already had, singing amongst the crowd. Everyone who was not close enough could watch him on the big screen. He certainly is not afaraid to touch and get close. All of that was unexpected to me since he comes across somewhat distant in pictures. I loved being wrong about this. Rumor had it he would pull people on stage for ‘Stagger Lee’ and the moment the song started the fans were ready. He did not even have to ask them to come up, they just flooded the stage and stood behind him. I took a step back, watching from below. He sang with them, he danced with them, he made them sit down and get up again, took water from one and gave his mic to another. The girl who held the microphone looked at him as if he was a god, waiting for the right moment to hand it back. I believe that was pretty much how my gig face looks like too. The all stayed up ther until the very end when he thanked us and the band, said goodbye and disappeared behind them. Wow, just wow! Still somewhat dazed, I made my way home, feeling like I was floating a above ground, happy I’d decided to go.

Setlist

Anthrocene
Jesus Alone
Magneto
Higgs Boson Blues
From Her to Eternity
Tupelo
Jubilee Street
The Ship Song
Into My Arms
Girl in Amber
I Need You
Red Right Hand
The Mercy Seat
Distant Sky
Skeleton Tree

Encore
The Weeping Song
Stagger Lee
Push the Sky Away

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