Icelandic trio Sigur Ros came roaring into Chicago last night (Sept. 30) for a show at Roosevelt University's Auditorium Theatre and delivered perhaps the finest concert in the Windy City this year.
Singer Jonsi and company were joined by an 11-piece band as the atmospheric pop act tore through some of its most recognizable songs, from the beautiful ("Glosoli") to the poppy ("Hoppipolla") to the fierce and powerful ("Saeglopur," which garnered some of the loudest applause of the evening when the crowd heard the opening piano notes.)
The live band included a horn section that added new sounds to old favorites like "Vaka" and livened up new tunes such as "Hrafntinna," an early-set highlight with its clattering percussion. Sigur Ros played six of the nine songs from their latest album, "Kveikur."
While one could lodge numerous complaints against the Auditorium Theatre - don't worry, we'll get to those in a moment - one thing the venue had going for itself was fantastic sound. All the way to the top of the balcony, six floors up, the audio was clear and sharp.
And if there's one band for which you want quality audio, it's Sigur Ros, who craft their complex songs with everything from horns to xylophones to Jonsi's trademark guitar playing using a violin bow.
The final moment of the concert was the best, a lengthy rendition of "Popplagið," the closing track on the group's untitled 2002 album. The song has always been a part of the group's setlists, but the guys took it to a new place by extending the slow build to the final crescendo of crashing drums. It was a mindblowing finish to an outstanding show.
The band left the stage after that and came back to take multiple bows but did not perform an encore. How could they? There was no way to top what they had just done.
As for the venue, the Auditorium Theatre left a lot to be desired, and we're not just talking about its ancient, tiny, uncomfortable seats. Incomprehensibly, the venue made the decision to close its upper balcony and move everyone who had purchased tickets there to a different seat. The result was a line around the block at showtime, as fans who had purchased legitimate tickets were kicked out of the venue after passing through security and told they had to go back and wait in line at the box office to pick up tickets to their newly-assigned seats.
The fiasco kept dozens, if not hundreds, of concertgoers from seeing most of the set from opening act Julianna Barwick, though that wasn't a big deal since every one of her dreamy soundscapes and vocal loops sounded the same.
Check out more of my Chicago live music articles.