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gamla borg, grímsnes, iceland (22nd april 2007)
  • alafoss live

photos by anna sveinsdottir


ágætis byrjun
(new song)

iceland review
at 3pm on sunday i get a call from my best friend to come out to gamla borg, a quaint concert hall-cum-coffee house in borg in grímsnes, for an informal acoustic set put on by sigur rós. i’ve heard them play a number of times, but only in massive venues, so i jump at the opportunity to see iceland’s most famous four-piece play in an intimate setting.

i felt slightly intrusive, as the crowd is a mix of the band members’ friends and family, from infants to the elderly, who are treated to a full-on icelandic spread of waffles, cream cakes, and the countryside specialty, ástarpungar (literally, "love-scrotums"), which are basically deep-fried balls of dough speckled with raisins.

the timber house is the perfect venue on a lazy sunday, with the long summer sun shining in across the stage. once everyone has had their fill of coffee and pastries the band takes the stage accompanied by their string players. as if rehearsed for months on end, a child stands up on its mothers lap and yells, “sjádu! sjádu thetta!” (“look! look at that!”) just as singer and guitarist jónsi strums the first chords.

the first song is a new version of “von,” followed by “samskeyti,” “vaka,” and “ágætis byrjun.” in the small room the sound is impeccable, every lilt and wisp in jónsi’s voice coming through. some children in the audience gather in front of the stage playing sweet-and-sour with the performers. orri makes faces at them from behind his drums.

the band plays one new song, a languishing tune sung in sigur rós’s imaginary language, vonlenska, followed by “heysátan” from their newest album, and finishing with a stripped-down, but powerful rendition of “starálfur,” seldom played in concert. at the end all the players return to the tiny, cramped stage during the proud ovation, taking a fumbled group bow reminiscent of christmas pageants and school plays.

next to having sigur rós in your headphones, this is the way the music was meant to be heard: in a small timber house in the middle of nowhere, with a bellyful of ástarpungar and coffee, in the company of people who not only love the music, but love the music makers.
(iceland review: jonas moody)

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