Halfway through “Festival,” a track that initially waves gently to and fro, Jónsi crescendos an “ooooooooh” then lets it fade away. At Boston University’s Agganis Arena, that slipping towards stillness was sung past the point of absurdity. Surely there must have been a peddled effect that extended the note, surely that was the case. Or, some unseen sprite must have echoed the haunting vowel past the point of lung capacity. Yet, whatever Íslenska magic formed this surreal tremolo everyone knew what was about to happen- from this momentary silence, a throbbing bass line punched the ethereal into celebration.
I’ve often wondered if Sigur Rós is simply a Scandinavian version of Explosions in the Sky, an iced version of bro-classical. While I love both bands, on album and live, the Hopelandic phrasing permits Sigur Rós greater access to the sublime. And on “Festival,” they ushered the entire crowd into contemplation of life’s great depth, mystery, and danger.