Jonsi thrills Boston with solo show

A review of Jonsi Birgisson at the House of Blues on May 6, 2010

, Staff Writer

Jón Birgisson, or Jónsi, is the frontman for the Icelandic outfit of Sigur Rós, known for their grand crescendos and fiercely-intimate live shows. While Sigur Rós hasn’t put out any material for a little while, Jónsi has been quite busy, first releasing a collection of songs with his boyfriend called Riceboy Sleeps, and following up recently with a full solo album, simply titled Go. The album has been extremely well-received, still quintessentially Jónsi, musically, but more bombastic and less, well, glacial, than Sigur Rós’ material. Needless to say, a man that instills so much emotion into people builds a fairly voracious fanbase, and so anticipation was high for Jónsi to hit the House of Blues stage this past Thursday for the second of two shows.

After taking the stage to riotous applause, the audience immediately settled into an excited hush as Jónsi donned an acoustic guitar, a single musician on vibes in tail. The two kicked things off with “Bars Still Serve Beer,” a new song (the evening would be filled with them) that set things off on the right foot, showing Jónsi’s immaculate falsetto and his joyous songwriting abilities. As the second song, “Hengilás”, began, the rest of the band had made their way to the stage. More traditionally what one thinks of when they think of Jónsi’s music, the song started slowly, methodically, slowly building itself to a grand climax. It perfectly displayed the musicianship each member brought with him.

And speaking of displays, the visuals were simply outstanding through then entire performance. What started as a background image “caught fire”, slowly revealing a sort of three-dimensional optical illusion. From there, the backdrop continued to pair itself with the music coming out of the speakers: during “Kolniour” an extended image of a fox chasing a deer played, matching the pacing of the song. The song gave way to a little bit of jamming as the band huddled around þorvaldur þorvaldsson’s vibes, which led into a pristine transition into “Tornado”.

One highlight of the evening was a tune simply titled “New Piano Song”, which was just that. Jónsi sat at a piano and played a little chord progression, sure, but he also sustained a note for nearly a full minute. It was one of those moments that had the entire audience in rapture – everyone was nearly in disbelief at how long the man was holding this note. Clearly Jónsi’s vocals were in fine form on this night, as he produced a fantastic showcase of ability all throughout the show.

The main set closed down with “Around Us”, slowly devolving into just Jónsi on stage, leaving the man to construct intricate vocal loops. The stage went black, and it was over. As an encore, the band came on with “Animal Arithmetic”, which had the Sigur Rós frontman singing absurdly fast, and finally “Grow Till Tall”, which brought back the trademark climactic builds that made the man famous to begin with. Jónsi worked himself into a frenzy, knocking bottles over, immersing himself fully in the sounds his band was creating. It was a sight to behold, and absolutely an unforgettable experience.

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