Jonsi Verizon Wireless Theater October 27, 2010
This is not an article about Jonsi. There are no articles about Jonsi, because there are no words for Jonsi. He is pre-linguistic. Go try and write an article about what it feels like to smell colors, why don't you?
Describe hearing flowers. Come back when you can taste laughing. In the exaggeratingly long book of how to listen to music, Jonsi is that small print at the bottom of the page that even a microscope can't see. We were not properly prepared for this. How do you comprehend a seventh sense? You don't even try, that's how.
Aftermath went in to Verizon Wednesday night anticipating something beautiful, and left with something transcendent. We walked in with excitement, walked out with inspiration. If we once thought we understood the otherworldly type of happiness live music sometimes brings, we now have no idea what language is.
Jonsi is a bomb thrown into your consciousness; he explodes in daydreams, drawn in crayon. It's the kind of show that Houston doesn't get to experience often - the leprechaun riding a unicorn type thing that comes around less than once in a lifetime. And the crowd - relatively small, at least for a show this big - seemed to know this, not letting even one half-second come and go without a smile.
The songs Jonsi sings are almost secondary to the feeling those songs bring to their listeners. Songs about fear that make you feel brave, songs about loss that make you feel found, songs about bicycles that make you want to be a cloud, just so you can keep the rain away, songs about death that make you feel more alive than you ever thought possible.
Jonsi isn't what we think he is, because Jonsi isn't anything. He's everything. To everybody. All of the time.
Jonsi is an artist who exists in a perpetual pageant of the orchestrally sublime. He equips himself with everything it takes to make each member of his audience feel as if they are the only one in a room made of magic; but at the same time we all felt as if the person next to us was the best friend we've ever had.
That's just what Jonsi does: He bridges the gap between the foreign and the familiar, making the fact that some of his songs are sung in a language that doesn't even exist (Hopelandic), seem normal. And as enthralled as the audience was by the abundance of visual stimulation in the simple yet mystifying stage show, what brought us to Verizon were the songs. And that audible Vicodin of a voice. And one preposterously handsome eyeball.
Make no mistake, this was not a Sigur Ros show. Gone were the overtly ethereal melodies that made Sigur Ros what they were and are. No longer will you find the purposefully abstruse musical arrangements found on some of Sigur Ros's best records. Jonsi sings simplicity, and whereas Sigur Ros largely made art for the sake of something artful; Jonsi seems to mostly write songs that he knows his audience will digest as something personal.
The night worked as a kind of narrative of exaltation, beginning slowly in theme and tone with "Stars in Still Water" and "Hengilás," a song so devilishly somber that it can't not be listened to at night; it's meant for darkness, like a mole. As the set continued, "Kolniður" kept it moving into what we could expect later - almost invisible drums that seem to reverberate out of nowhere.
It's one of those songs where voice becomes instrument, instrument becomes voice, disorienting the listener just enough to make us a little crazy. And then "Tornado," easily one of the most gorgeously arranged songs Jonsi or Sigur Ros has ever done, came right before "Sinking Friendships," acting as the double-sided arc that ended up helping us make sense of where we were (i.e. inside a tale of timelessness), only to give way for something seemingly impossible: Three songs, all equally perfect.
"Go Do," "Boy Lilikoi" and "Animal Arithmetic" each turned out to be that much better than the one that came before, while at the same time capable of being better than the rest if they were otherwise arranged. Jonsi understands something none of the rest of possibly can - how to use language and sound to force people into a state of perpetual joy without even trying, and without even seeming to think there's a way not to.
No one else can do what he does, and that was abundantly clear in how the audience reacted to the final three songs of the night: "Around Us" and the encore of "Sticks and Stones," and "Grow Till Tall." It was weirdly church-like (if churches allowed cell phones), with people regularly holding their arms wide and looking up, with eyes closed.
Deify the deifiable, worship the worthy; this is what music can and should make us do. Jonsi made us all believe in something Wednesday night. And it'll probably never happen again, at least not for the first time. Cherish it.
Personal Bias: Someone at Aftermath dated someone not at Aftermath only because she had a Sigur Ros tattoo--not telling who.
The Crowd: Smallish yet entranced. No lines for bathrooms, no lines for beer. Because no one wanted to move. Ever.
Overheard in the Crowd: "What did he just say?" Over and over and over and over...
Random Notebook Dump: Compared to everything else in the history of the universe, this is better.
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Stars in Still Water Hengilás Icicle Sleeves Kolniður Vibraphone Song Tornado Sinking Friendships Saint Naïve Go Do Boy Lilikoi Animal Arithmetic New Piano Song Around Us
Sticks & Stones Grow Till Tall