Post-rock icons SIGUR ROS wowed fans with a superb set at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo Japan. This venue, which translates to “Japan Martial Arts Hall,” is often used for massive sumo and judo tournaments, however also doubles as an arena for huge live shows, the first of which was The Beatles in 1966.
On Tuesday evening, the arena was sectioned off halfway to make way for an expansive stage, large enough to comfortably house the eleven-piece live band. This incredibly popular group, hailing from Iceland, last played in Tokyo a mere 9 months ago, performing at one of Japan’s largest music festivals, Summer Sonic. This time around they’re headlining their own world tour, promoting their upcoming album “Kveikur,” due to be released worldwide on 17/18 June.
The venue was absolutely packed and dotted with an unbelievable number of security staff. Half of the audience was seated in the 2nd and 3rd floor tiered balconies, while the rest of us were crammed into sectioned standing areas as designated on each ticket.
Once the house lights were dimmed, a towering column of white fabric housing the entire stage was illuminated, and for the first two tracks clever lighting techniques were used to cast looming shadows of Sigur Ros’ band members onto the white curtains, accompanied by abstract film clips, completely encapsulating the beauty and magnitude of the opening songs. After a long, tense buildup, the music peaked and the curtain dropped to reveal the people everyone was so eager to see, and the crowd finally decided to make some noise. Besides this the audience was largely unmoving and quiet, seeming to almost be in a trance, staring in awe as the band proved their worth with a tight and powerful performance.
Sigur Ros’ music can often be soothing and ethereal to the point of lulling you into a stupor, and this show was no exception. I could count four people in the immediate vicinity who appeared to be asleep standing up, their arms folded up and heads propped up on palms. That’s not to say that the show wasn’t exciting; after vast, rolling buildups, the combination of heart-stopping crescendos and incredible lighting effects was truly goosebump-inducing. The soporific nature of the show left fans in a pleasure daze, only to be broken when the show finished and all band members lined up at the front of the stage to take a gracious bow; at this point the crowd showed their appreciation with genuinely ecstatic applause.
The audience then proceeded to contribute to a 20 minute-long exit shuffle amidst a sea of satisfied murmurs: “Utsukushikatta!” and “Sugoi ne!” (“That was beautiful!” and “Amazing, right?!”). A crowd of people were scrambling to get close to a wooden frame containing the set list for the evening, brandishing their smartphones and furiously hammering the camera shutters. Sigur Ros are set to play China and the US next, with a massive list of other countries to follow.