Written by Samuel Barker
Mar 31, 2003 at 08:00 PM
ImageI remember thumbing through a copy of the New York Times a few years ago and seeing this picture of these Icelandic kids playing in an abandoned church. The picture showed the guitarist/vocalist, Jonsi, playing his guitar with a bow. Immediately, visions of Led Zeppelin popped in my head.Upon reading that this band had spent some time touring with Radiohead and they had just released their first internationally distributed album, ágætis byrjun, I gave the band a chance.

On album, this band produced layered sounds with vocals the sound as much a part of the music as any instrument. With the lyrics being in the band’s home language, I never really knew what they were saying literally, but somehow you got an understanding of the message they were trying to convey.

Live, the feeling is much the same. It’s something Americans rarely have to deal with, seeing a band that doesn’t sing in English, but for this night, it was a refreshing moment. A chance to enjoy the sounds and the mood of the music rather than suffer through a barrage of rhetoric aimed at swaying your opinion. For this night, you were left songs that broke 20 minutes and layers of music that carried your mind away.

Flanked by the Amina String Quartet, the band’s songs sounded rich and full. Keyboards filled the music and the audience, who were allowed to see the show from whereever they wanted, enjoyed this rare, unknown environment.

It would be easy to sit down with each album and lay out a chart of what they played and tell you relatively what they accomplished, but none of the songs stayed according to album. Most of them ventured into some other realms, where they found new life and kept everyone into the set.