Sigur Ros are currently on an “indefinite hiatus” – and this is a very sad thing. However, it thankfully leaves the door open a smidgen for them to sneak back in when their desire to create even more unbelievable beauty compels them back on tour and into the studio.
“inni” (meaning ‘inside’) takes the form of a double live album and 75 minute film and having been preceded by a very enticing subliminally tempting trailer, tonight’s first UK screening in Queens Hall, Edinburgh, was sure to be a very special night indeed. The film was recorded and shot over two nights at London’s Alexandra Palace, directed by Vincent Morisset (of Arcade Fire Miroir Noir fame) and I for one would like to shake that talented hand! You don’t need to be an expert in cinematography to realise what a work of art this film is. Beautiful, dark (quite literally, almost all in black and white), and an extremely intense viewing, Queens Hall is the perfect venue. You can’t help but be absorbed into the otherworldly lifts and falls, swoops, dips and crashes of the music, it carries you along on a wave and at times you can’t work out if you’re in the audience or have somehow accidentally become a member of the band.
Heroes of crescendos, ‘popplagið’ is the ultimate closing song both live and in the film, and it is testament to the band and the director that it is as impressive in both forms. The film is interspersed with snippets of old footage of gigs when they were a young mischievous band and a couple of humorous asides from band members being interviewed, their endearing Icelandic accents helpfully explaining what their music sounds like, “Us – together”.
Inni was recorded digitally and then transferred to 16mm film and then projected and re-filmed, sometimes through glass to give an impressionistic look and the result is something quite visually stunning. Having only ever heard an audience applaud in a cinema once previously (following ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ incidentally), I can assure you the urge to applaud after each song is a difficult one to resist, nevermind at the end, so clap we did!
Where Heima captured the beauty of Iceland, Inni encapsulates exactly what ‘Sigur Ros the experience’ is like. For anyone who has not seen them live, this is just like being there. For anyone who has seen them live, the blu-ray dvd will no doubt be a comforting reminder of that time you had your ears blown apart, your heart turned inside out and your eyes assaulted by art in the form of a rock band.
See it see it buy it buy it turn it up loud (it’s out on November 7th).
To be fair, I can’t think of anyone who could follow the ‘Inni’ performance and seem ‘appropriate’ so actually it turned out to be perfectly apt when Edinburgh’s ‘Mr Inappropriate’ took to the stage in the form of Withered Hand. The shuffling, humble start and apology for missing some of the film due to some catering engagements, Dan Willson does a mighty fine and courageous job of it. His witty banter (see mildly amusing intro of ‘No Cigarettes’ becoming ‘No Sigur Ros’ – the man’s a genius!) and clever lyrics (see? genius!), delivered in a tender vocal at times distinctly reminiscent of Neil Young are warmly received by his hometown crowd. ‘Religious Songs’ is the crowdpleaser (even got a mention recently in Rolling Stone magazine), but personally I found the new ‘Christmas tune’ and another that *I legally cannot mention by name* to be highlights of the set.
Fellow Edinburgh boys Meursault brought the night to a close, a fitting emotional rollercoaster of a band. How they can bear those awkward ‘could hear a pin drop’ moments I’ll never know, but once again Mr Pennycook and his talented crew deliver their passionate wails and desperate pleas in suitable fashion. Occasional Smashing Pumpkins-like guitars are a welcome new addition to the Meursault sound, enhancing the overall feeling of angst and frustration that permeates their set. Their serious demeanor makes for uncomfortable viewing to be honest, but the soaring Scottish vocal amongst the tight well rehearsed band wins through.
And after an emotionally-charged night the crowd leave this majestic venue with their dreams, minds and ears full of wonderful flickering monochrome scenes of quality music and wander home fully intending to start a band the very next day… probably.