SIGUR ROS at Palais Royale, May 4. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 600 (sold out). Rating: NNNN
the chatter at the beginning ofSigur Rós's Toronto unveiling at Palais Royale Friday was that the Icelandic group were actually booked to play the Rivoli in 1999 but never made it. By the time the quartet left the stage two hours later, the discussion was about whether it would be Massey Hall or Maple Leaf Gardens they'd play next.
Swooshing into town on a colossal wave of hype, the real question was whether Sigur Rós could cut it live. For the first 20 minutes, they were surprisingly average, mixing bowed guitars and organ chords with deliberate rhythms and unintelligible lyrics.
It was epic and grand, but the band seemed to be running at half-throttle while the audience waited patiently for things to erupt.
Things changed somewhere around the time Icelandic guest vocalist Steindór Andersen strolled out in a tuxedo, stood ramrod straight and sang two songs in a massive, operatic voice. A string quartet emerged from the wings, and suddenly Sigur Rós's set moved from recital to space-rock overload.
Drummer Orri Pall Dyrason began to pound his kit menacingly as the string players sawed away frantically, and by the time the group got to the inexplicably named finale, Pop Song, the intensity was astonishing.
Although the band played almost an entire set of new material -- only two songs from their celebrated Agaetus Byrjun disc were offered -- the polite crowd went bananas, and it took the sound man slipping on Melissa Etheridge to finally clear the room.