Dublin Temple Bar Music Centre

Far from a gig, more a mass of reverence...

Roll up, roll up, come see the strange elphin-boy who sings without moving his lips. In fact, so ethereal and resonant is singer Jonsi‘s voice, he makes Liz Fraser sound like Joan Jett. He doesn’t speak and he rarely cracks a smile, and without the serene back-drop of Icelandic landscapes and smokin’ geysers, staring at the muscles tense in Jonsi‘s neck is pretty much the most visual aspect of tonight’s show.

That said, the effortless, booming panorama of the boy’s larynx is enough to carry it off, and the capacity Music Centre crowd is suitably transfixed and rapturous. Which is pretty impressive, given the fact that only a handful of songs are recognisable from Sigur Rss’ supremely lush ‘Agaetis Byrjun’ album.

Halfway into the set, the familiar submarine style blooping pulses of ‘Svefn-G-Englar’ prompt excited yelps from the gathered disciples. Jonsitentatively scraps his bow across the guitar strings, unleashing swathes of subtly distorted electric orchestration, the brushed drums are punctuated with pounding bass drum, and his remarkable choirboy howl pierces the sky. It’s a little bit eerie.

Jonsi‘s voice sounds more like a finely-tuned woodwind instrument trapped in his belly, than anything remotely human. With arching cheekbones shadowing his mouth, the assembled throng strain to see where exactly this heavenly sound is coming from. If you didn’t know better, you’d think a shoal of mic-ed up whales were approaching in the distance. Even when he stands several feet back from the microphone, the sonic bluster is astounding. ‘Staralfur’ is warm and whimsical by comparison, the taped brass and strings adding that extra spread of psychedelic syrup, not unlike Mercury Rev‘s hot-wired chamber pop distortion.

Tonight was far from a gig, more a mass of reverence. And even without a word of English all night, Dublin and Sigur Rss fell in love in some sort of universal wilderness.