I always slightly cringe when attending one of the iTunes Festival events. It’s not the artists that cause the discomfort but the actual setup of the concert. You’re greeted by the blue t-shirt Apple brigade, queue in multiple area’s and then show various forms of ID just to prove that you are indeed who you say you are. It almost feels like taking out a finance deal to buy an iMac from an Apple store such are the lengths you go to. There is no signature required but you almost feel that this may introduced at some stage, along with retina scans and DNA testing.
A very nice young lady in one of the previously described t-shirts even said that she was “overjoyed to see me and hoped I had a wonderful time”. Did she think I was a member of the band? It all feels a bit sterile to be honest. Give me fumbled body checks and the beer chugging concert goers of the Kentish Town forum any day.
Because of the ‘free to enter ballot’ there appeared to be a mixture of genuine Sigur Ros fans and “let’s see what it’s all about” types at Monday night’s gig. After four songs I looked to my left only to see a man with his hands thrust out in a “what on earth is happening” gesture. I looked to my right and a woman’s face was streaming with tears, she was in utter joy and completely overwhelmed by what she was hearing and witnessing.
I looked further around the crowd and there was calm. There appeared to be no movement, no head nodding … just nothing. I simply could not work out if people were enjoying this or not. The confused man on my left then decided that enough was enough and he departed. This, as it turns out, was a huge mistake. Enter the adrenaline injection … enter “Kveikur”.
The once still crowd seemed to come to life in a heartbeat. From this moment forwards every member of the audience responded. The uncertainty was gone and the crowd danced and heads most certainly started nodding. It was an incredible site. Everyone was now hooked. By the time “Hoppipolla” started everyone was singing from the same sheet, so to speak. It was glorious. However, there was no obvious reaction from the band. It’s almost as though this was scripted.
Lead singer Jón Pór Jónsi Birgisson is an entertainer. He has so many tricks in his bag you almost don’t need the incredible and moving cinematic backdrops. He sings into his guitar to produce an incredible echo effect on “Svefn-G-Englar” (the highlight of the evening), he plays his guitar with a bow and all the while not putting a single foot wrong. There are so many musicians on stage and so many people off stage working lights, pulling cables and swapping instruments you are quite in awe at this wonderful organic machine.
The glorious Camden Roundhouse would have seen few concerts as powerful and moving as this. It’s fitting that this venue, one of the finest acoustically in the UK, should host this evenings entertainment.
After the incredible “Vaka” I actually panicked. I’d realised that as a journalist I was out of my comfort zone. I hadn’t made notes for a good 25 minutes and had been lost in the brilliance of the music. For once I simply didn’t care. For once I wasn’t looking at my watch wondering how long there was to go and if I’ll make the last tube home. For once I just didn’t want this to end.