The success of Icelandic avant rockers Sigur Ros is reminiscent of the “Seinfeld” episode, when George Costanza ignores his judgment and reacts in the opposite manner with every decision and surprisingly enjoys great success.
Sigur Ros, which will perform Monday at the USF Sun Dome, appears to be following in the footsteps of the iconic sitcom character. The unconventional band eschews song titles on occasion, sings songs in a language dubbed “hopelandic” aka Vonlenska and plays guitars with cello bows.
The eccentric outfit crafts wonderfully idiosyncratic, baroque music. Airplay is minimal. Music industry honchos would never suggest a band to follow in Sigur Ros’s footsteps.
However, 10,000 fans are transfixed by the band’s sublime sound on a crisp night in the City of Brotherly Love.
The trio, backed by eight musicians, creates a blissful and beautiful sound live. The band’s diverse orchestrations are stunning, especially in concert. The audience in Philadelphia sat transfixed while the band primarily played songs from its latest album, “Kveikur,” and from its moving 2005 release, “Takk.” The discs are arguably the most accessible in the Sigur Ros canon. However, it’s not as if the group, which played before 15,000 fans in Madison Square Garden, is pandering.
The deep, droning sounds generated by Sigur Ros are intense. Lead vocalist-guitarist Jon Por Birgisson’s vocals soar in a unique manner. There’s no band like Sigur Ros, which is touring with a horn and string section, a keyboardist (since Kjartan Sveinsson left prior to the recording of “Kveikur”) and an additional guitarist.
Is Sigur Ros, like Icelandic icons the Sugarcubes, so different since it comes from an isolated country?
“That’s something to think about,” bassist Georg Holm said before taking the stage in Philadelphia. “I don’t know. I have to think about that. Things are a bit different in Iceland than in many other countries. It’s a great place to live, and it’s inspiring. Perhaps it has something to do with how we’re moved to make our songs. Somehow we evolved into what we do. Most people don’t know this but in the early days we were very influenced by the first couple of Smashing Pumpkins albums. We loved those albums. We were also influenced by the Verve but we evolved into our own thing.”
Holm is pleasantly surprised how the band, which also includes drummer-keyboardist Orri Pall Dyrason has taken off in America. It’s not just that Sigur Ros’ grand sound has been embraced by fans. The band did a “Simpsons” Iceland-themed episode.
“That was great,” Holm said. “I guess that means you’ve really made it when you’re on that show. Is that the height of American culture? I think we’ve proven that anything is possible in the world of music. You don’t have to make music like everyone else or sing every song in English to find an audience in America. The important thing for any band to do is to just go with what moves you. It’s worked for us.”