lagið-i-gær

exactly 406 days later, i re-entered massey hall to delight in sigur ros again. if you’re reading this you already know what i think of them. if you want to know about the whole experience, read my review of last year’s concert. you’ll get the whole religious myth fed to you. the crowd was the same…lots of funk, lots of indie, lots of couples in power suits. seriously.

so, what was different, what was new to shock and amaze us? more than enough. there were actually only 2 or 3 songs last night that they didn’t play last year, and only one which i hadn’t heard before (certainly one of the best songs i’ve ever heard from them; the song sits on top of a bass riff that georg plays using a drumstick on his strings. unbeatably cool.), but they had a string section with them this time around which they used at the palais royale show last summer.

what made this show different was the mood of the band. looser, certainly; they had an opener (who was awful…he tried, but the execution just wasn’t there), jonsi twice broke a string, and there was some strange interruption before the last song where it sounded like they were asked to stop playing. massey hall management? still not sure. regardless, they then played their last song as they’d played all the others: roughly. well…as roughly as sigur ros’ music can be played. where last year’s show was almost orchestral, and the audience as well as the band seemed cautious and reverential, last night both knew what to expect, and that led to a sense of adventure in the band, especially jonsi. he was less connected to the audience last night, almost seeming to stand off with them. “svefn-g-englar” wasn’t the hymn that it was last year, but “daudalagid” flexed even harder (especially orri’s drumming).

the concert moved in the same way that () does, starting slowly and tentatively, setting up for the same 1-2 punch at the end, “dauðalagið” (death song) and then “popplagið” (pop song). it worked as a concept, a grand plan last night, whereas a year ago it worked by surprise and sheer bullying force, a mistake corrected by the principle of ‘might makes right’.

go see them in montreal, or new york, or boston. find them, see them somewhere. they wring emotion out of you ’til you could fit into the bass drum and find your heartbeat matching it. just make sure you go with the right person. i was lucky enough to last night. maybe that’s why it was so much better this time.

the set list:

  1. vaka
  2. fyrsta
  3. samskeyti
  4. ny batter
  5. njosnavelin
  6. svefn g englar
  7. salka
  8. hafsol
  9. intro
  10. daudalagid
  11. pop song

( )

let’s get something clear right off the bat: it’s not agaetis byrjun. nor should or could it be. agaetis byrjun was wondrous because it wasa surprise, an expected trove of incan gold when i wasn’t even looking for it. some of the lustre wore off when i began to hear “svefn-g-englar” in every tv show and movie striving to be indie-cool, but the that cd, for me, exists in my old apartment, 3 feet off the floor, crossing the living room to my couch where i sat agape. such a singular feeling about a cd eliminated any chance of a band repeating with a follow-up, and so i resigned myself to not making a comparison.

the self-control was unnecessary. () (a rather poncy title, i’ll admit) holds up as a different experience. agaetis byrjun was the introduction and indoctrination; () checks our guts to see if we understand why we’re here and if we have what it takes to stay. they do their best to scare us off in the first three songs, so anyone short of patience (read: MTV viewers) will lose interest without realizing it’s all part of a plan. the reward arrives with njosnavelin, probably destined to be the “popular” song from the album, much as “svefn-g-englar” was. it was already featured in vanilla sky in the crucial final scene, and it has an addictive – and, as usual, unintelligible – lyrical hook. i’ve been humming it today when the cd wasn’t playing in my stereo, computer or nomad. you will too.

there’s nothing new here. these songs have all been played live, and i heard most or all of them at the massey hall concert last fall (and will probably hear them again tonight), so while the general public may not have heard these songs, concert-goers and determined downloaders are familar with them already. with music like this, though, it’s the beauty of hearing it, the subtleties that you get in the studio that you don’t get live, that’s why you buy the disc and listen in the dark when everything else turns to shit or gold. live is a different experience, and an amazing one with this band, but the music coming from this album is like an established conductor or an old artist or the ’77 canadiens…there’s no deception here, no surprises. you know what’s coming, you’re ready for it…and it kicks your ass in ways you didn’t know a band could.

this is no longer just an alright start.

i come from downtown

toward the end of the first world war, and up to the beginning of the second, the british navy – which had been the dominant maritime power for centuries (thereby making britain a dominant world power) – became less and less of a force, not so much because they weakened, but because they rested on their laurels and let history pass them by while clinging to tradition (see also ‘French Infantry’) at the sake of innovation.

in any case, that was the last tragically hip concert i plan on ever going to. i’ve seen them live 3 or 4 times now, and the concert highlights are fewer in number and exactly the same as they were 7 years ago on the day for night tour.

first of all, let’s review some rules of concert decorum:

  1. not since the height of kiss army power in the late 70s has it been cool to fire up, giggling and triumphant, a joint/smoke as if this makes you rock n’ roll and shows how you stick it to the man. this is especially true in opera venues with names like “the hummingbird centre”, as was the case last night.
  2. devil signs have been dumb even longer than that.
  3. do i even need to mention swaying your lighters back and forth? see my spiritualized review for details.
  4. dancing, jumping, singing, shouting, whistling and generally getting your groove on are fully encouraged. however the music grabs you, you gotta let it do it’s thing. however, this does not mean you can scream (and i mean roseanne-singing-the-star-spangled-banner-quality screaming here…) at the top of your lungs for the full two hours – drowning out even the loudest parts of songs – unintelligible half-lyrics interspersed with “FUUUUCKINNNNNN’ EEEEEEEEHHH!!” as were the two mouth-breathers beside us. these fuckups, no doubt, drove in from barrie or ancaster, covering the floor of the pickup with empty bottles of wildcat. they would’ve been entertaining, except they were ruining the sound, so we just laughed at them and not with them. but, it’s a concert, so what’re you gonna do?

“nautical disaster”, “yawning or snarling”, “fire in the hole” and “greasy jungle” were the pallbearers of the mighty hip that had given us the absolutely brilliant (if overplayed) fully completely, the classic up to here and the underrated road apples (the best song from which, “cordelia”, still stands up as one of their greatest). day for night was their suez crisis, the signal to the world that they were no longer infallible. while half the cd (“grace, too”, “so hard done by”, “thugs”, “inevitability of death”, “an inch an hour”) showed their old strength, the other half threw in the towel and said, “no mas”.

it’s not nostalgia that makes people cheer the loudest for “new orleans is sinking”, “fifty mission cap”, “at the hundredth meridian” or “blow at high dough”. those songs are better, more original, more distinctive. the lyrics were more biting, the emotion was in it more. there sure as fuck weren’t any drum machines (as there are on in violet light). all 4 cds since day for night have had, at best, 3 good songs, not one of which is as good as the worst song on fully completely. remember, folks, i’m not saying this because i refuse to be drawn out of the past, i’m speaking from both a technical and a “gut” feel on this. the music isn’t as strong, and it doesn’t give you the same kick in the balls. i love it when bands evolve, as long they evolve into something good, otherwise they should cut their losses and pack it in.

and so, if this trend by the hip continues, i’ll keep trading (or just not buying) the new hip cd every few years, and they’ll get no more of my concertgoing money. not that this should worry them; they’ll never go broke touring here, certainly. fans have given them as much of a solid touring base in canada as the stones (who, coincidentally, played a block away at the air canada centre last night) have worldwide. i just hope they pull themselves out of this spin before they become a travelling sideshow like the stones, living on their fame and mystique rather than their music. they’re dangerously close already.

108812649608830664

at one point last night, when the four of us were cheering excitedly about drinking the same wine as tony soprano on the screen before us, someone said, “i’m not sure whether this is a high point or a low point in my life.”

see, we somehow managed to watch the entire third season in two nights. 13 episodes. 13 hours. it became something obsessive in us, almost maniacal. okay, not maniacal, but we were determined to get through it all. last night we fired up some pasta and vino to get into the spirit of things (much like my need to make pasta every time i watch the godfather and see clemenza teaching michael how to cook). there was also an incident with vampire teeth that i’ll not get into.

now i have to wait for season 4, since i don’t have hbo/tmn. no patience! instant gratification now! now right now!

fine, i’ll wait.

anybody have any wine?