The Adventures of
Captain Zero
and his trusty sidekick Numba Wan
Posted Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Sigur Ros
16 November 2002 – Ogden Theater, Denver, CO

The cold dark days of November had descended across the land, war hung in the air, and lovers stared at each other across a chasm. Sometimes things become so troubled it seems recovery is impossible, that only a miracle or some blessed magic will make them right.

Fortunately for us, Sigur Ros came to town that Saturday night, supporting their untitled new album. Critics have roasted this Icelandic group for pretension for leaving the new album’s eight haunting tracks nameless, and for the made up language that constitute its lyrics, while largely staying mute on the music, as if they don’t know what to say about it. But the music is really what all this is about, isn’t it? Musically, the new songs are among the most lush, pure, and beautiful I have ever heard. Words are sung in Jon Thor Birgisson’s heartbreaking falsetto, but they are foreign and we don’t know what they mean, so we place our own meaning into them and become entwined in the art in a deeply personal way. The concepts conveyed, instead of a sermon by the artist, become a mirror into the soul of the beholder, and alchemy blossoms. It’s the perfect music for watching civilizations clash, weather unfold, or meteors shoot across the sky.

It seemed like every Bohemian and hepcat in the city converged upon the Ogden Theater that night; I have never seen a crowd quite like it. Strangers were downright nice to each other in ways I’ve not seen in awhile. “I think this guy was next” I heard more than once at the bar.

The music of Sigur Ros has been described as otherworldly, and indeed at one point in the night it sounded like a spaceship was landing. It was easy to imagine frontman Birgisson as being an alien, genderless and delicate at the center of such incredible sounds. They opened with two or three songs from the new album. Ambiguous and haunting, the background images complemented the music well. First there was a huge face that my cohort thought looked like a newborn and I interpreted as the face of God (so typical!), and then there were a series of what looked like grainy Zapruder quality Icelandic family videos of children looking out cars windows and the like. As they started on the ethereal piano line of the third track off the new album, mirror balls descended and cast thousands of beams of light throughout, and my beloved and I perched atop a rickety old piano bench, the highest people in the room by several counts. The singer broke out his trademark bow and strummed for a minute so we knew the sound he was making. After Svefn-G-Englar, while the audience sat in silent awe, some cat yelled out “that was fucking brilliant”, and we chuckled in agreement. The band said not a word from the stage, and might have found the outburst rude, but most people clearly agreed with the sentiment. Within a few songs, the bow was severely frayed, and I imagined it was by the sheer intensity of the music.

The richness and intensity of the show took its toll on the audience. Two people in our area were on the floor apparently asleep, and a few left early. I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage, except to turn to my companion to share a mutual affirmation. She thinks they could have shaved 20 minutes off the show and left everyone spellbound and wanting more instead of feeling exhausted. The ending, however, was the best part as they went into the incredible eighth new track, which begins with a beautiful guitar line soon accompanied by an ominous klaxon alarm and ends with a jaw-dropping heavy climax. To me the song’s violence is the musical embodiment of modern warfare, a soundtrack to the great movements of civilization in our time.

After the show Sigur Ros came back to the stage twice accompanied by elated applause, and bowed as a group each time before retreating. An encore was utterly unnecessary. We emerged nearly spent, but cleansed by the experience, and somehow the world had regained its magical beauty. A spark hung in the crisp air, friends met purely by divine chance, and I can even confirm reports of lovers being reconciled. The planet was approaching the Leonids one last time and Sigur Ros would be playing when they fell.