Show Review & Photos: Sigur Rós w/ Wordless Music Orchestra @ the Paramount

Sigur Rós w/ Wordless Music Orchestra @ the Paramount – 8/24/23
Show Review & Photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Jón Birgisson of Sigur Rós

Icelandic experimental-rock group Sigur Rós performed at the Paramount Theatre on August 24, 2023. They had last played there in 2022.

The band was arranged at center, surrounded by the 41-piece Wordless Music Orchestra, whose conductor stood on a platform at front. As the orchestra played cinematic swells, Sigur Rós rotated through a collection of instruments. Lead singer Jónsi (Jón Birgisson)’s bowed guitar and angelic vocals floated to the ornate ceiling of the antique theater. Dim, colored lighting glowed and flickered, and vertical light bulbs dotted the stage. A Jónsi scent (presumably) was diffused near the conductor’s platform.

This unusual stage plot was reminiscent of a story Jónsi had shared with this writer in an interview with Back Beat Seattle earlier this year. Birgisson said that he often attempts to recreate a favorite moment on tour, where his favorite choir had sung in a circle around him at an Icelandic bar in exchange for a round of shots.

Sigur Rós released their eighth studio album, ÁTTA, earlier this summer. It features Jónsi (vocals), Georg Hólm (bass), returning band member Kjartan Sveinsson (multi-instrumentals). On the album, they are backed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. It is a pretty but devastating work that mourns climate and political change.

Sigur Rós – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn

The group played many tunes from the new album, beginning with “Blóðberg.” They also included a few of their classics that were audience favorites. As “Starálfur” started up with joyful arpeggios, the theater erupted in applause, and someone nearby gasped and became audibly tearful. Then the orchestra sang together beautifully at the opening of “Dauðalogn” before backing Jónsi in a vocal feature. After an intermission, the second set opened with the poignant “Vaka.” Afterward, Sigur Rós returned with the conductor to take an extended bow and wave to the roaring audience.

Sigur Rós concluded their tour after two stops in California. Seattle was fortunate to be included as one of just a few U.S. dates. (Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell even showed for the occasion.)

Sigur Rós – all photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn