Sigur Ros’s Jonsi & Alex Somers brought Riceboy Sleeps to Brooklyn (pics, review)
Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi and his partner Alex Somers released their ambient-orchestral masterpiece under the moniker Riceboy Sleeps back in July 2009, but in all that time the project never actually hit the road. However, in honor of its 10th birthday, they brought the project out of the attic for “the first and last time.” After a string of summer dates in Los Angeles, Mayer, Arizona, London, Paris, and Australia, the tour looped back to the US this fall with the help of the prolific Wordless Music Orchestra and Choir. The tour culminated in a final show at Brooklyn’s gorgeous Kings Theatre on October 31, Halloween, and it would end up being one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever put my ears through.
Being a Halloween gig, the theater was full of people in various states of fancy dress, including Jonsi, Alex, conductor Robert Ames, as well as most (if not all) of the Wordless Music Orchestra. I got to the venue embarrassingly early and as I made my way to my seat I noticed all the armrests had a packet of Pop Rocks candy on them. I assumed this was a Halloween treat, but it turns out they’d play a more dramatic role in the evening’s proceedings much later. As I sat in my seat struggling to stay awake waiting for the show to start, a Stella in my hand and a Stella in my cupholder, the venue was filled with ambient noises that sounded as if we were locked in the hold of a massive, ancient wooden ship that was gently rolling along the ocean. Low rolling boominess and sounds that reminded me of wood and rope groaning under intense pressure combined with an extremely foggy stage awash with blood red lighting created quite the pre-show atmosphere.
Finally, after a brief introduction from Vampire Jonsi and Goatboy Somers, the orchestra began the evening with a full performance of sonic triptych “All Animals” which, having purposefully avoided seeing previous Riceboy Sleeps setlists, was a wonderful, unexpected surprise. "All Animals" was a bonus EP that was included in the limited edition run of their Riceboy Sleeps album, so although it makes sense it would be included in the evening’s performance, I did not expect these songs to make an appearance. Just before tucking into the "All Animals" performance, conductor Robert Ames, who came out and conducted the entire 30-plus minute opening set as the Headless Horseman, sans horse, told the audience that when he does a particular “cue” we were to pour the Pop Rocks into our mouths. Sure enough, at the very tail end of "All Animals," we got the cue and got to pop rocking. The result of hundreds of people eating pop rocks at the same time had a way more dramatic effect that I thought it would. The resulting sound was somewhere between an egg frying on a greasy skillet and the cracking of ice. It was surreal and it worked.
After a brief intermission, the performance of Riceboy Sleeps began in earnest and for the next 70 minutes I experienced some of the most gorgeous music I have ever heard in my life. I didn’t listen to Riceboy Sleeps until about seven years AFTER it actually came out. But since I started listening to it, it has gotten more play than just about anything in my library. In the days leading up to the show I had heard that maybe they’d play the album out of order. Luckily, they didn’t stray from the running order of the album, which is smart, because the album flow is perfect as it is. As such, they started right in with "Happiness" which sounded more gorgeous than I could have ever hoped. When Jonsi’s signature falsetto kicked in towards the end of "Indian Summer," the assembled audience could have stabbed each other to death with their goosebumps. And the vocal work in "Daniell in the Sea" was way more Jonsi-centric live that it was on the album, and it worked so so well. Supplementing the sound of a massive orchestra, Jonsi, Alex, and other musicians integrated the sound of found objects, prerecorded sounds and antiquated microphones into the mix. This performance reinvigorated an almost already fanatical love of Riceboy Sleeps. And for one last Halloween-themed cherry on top, the band threw candy into the audience at the end of the set.
Pictures of the Kings Theatre show are in the gallery above. Setlist and a video from the LA show below.
All the Big Trees
Daníell in the Sea
photos by P Squared