Of all the events in this year's Luglio Suona Bene open air concerts in the Cavea at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, it was last night's appointment with Sigur Rós frontman Jon Thor Birgisson, better known as Jónsi, that I had been most eagerly anticipating. I'd been following the development of the tour on Jonsi's website and knew that it was going to be a visually stunning show with gorgeous animation work and projected graphics specially designed by 59 Productions. When I bought the tickets way back in March, however, I was given an almost pitying look by box office staff who clearly thought my eagerness to get what I thought were surely the hottest tickets in town was exaggerated! As it turned out, it wasn't a sell-out show last night, but the devoted fans in the audience made up for its size in enthusiastic applause and cheers during what was an amazing performance by the Icelandic musician - it was everything I had hoped it would be...and more! Hearing Jónsi use his extraordinary vocal gifts and that achingly beautiful falsetto live on stage is something you really have to experience in person.
Last year Jónsi released an exquisite ambient instrumental album Riceboy Sleeps recorded at home in Reykjavik with his boyfriend Alex Somers, who also joined him on stage last night in Rome on guitar, sound effects and keyboards, together with the other three vital musical components of this tour - Thorvaldur Thór Thorvaldsson on drums, Ólafur Björn Ólafsson on keyboards and Úlfur Hansson on bass and monome. The focus of last night's show was firmly on Jónsi's stunning first solo studio album Go, released in April this year and he performed all nine tracks on the album, with the sheer euphoria of Go Do and Boy Lilikoi totally bringing down the house, as well as several so far unreleased songs - the gorgeous opening acoustic number Stars in Still Water, the heartbreaking Icicle Sleeves, Saint Naive and an unnamed piano song.
When Jónsi came back out on stage for the encore in full Native American headdress and launched into a joyous version of Sticks and Stones (from the score to the 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon) and then totally let rip in ecstatic oblivion with the pounding grand finale of Grow Till Tall with blizzard and thunderstorm visuals playing on the screen behind him, it was as if we were thrust into the very heart of a storm and made to experience that awe of the elements that city dwellers so often ignore. Throughout the night, animals – running wolves and deer, butterflies, swooping owls and scurrying rats and insects - had all come to life on the backdrop screens reminding us of the terrible beauty and sometimes destructive power of Nature. It was a wonderful journey that kept the audience rapt. Thank you Jónsi for taking us with you.
Watch Boy Lilikoi below or click here to watch on YouTube.