On Friday Dan and I were at Hammersmith to see Jónsi. What sort of people, we wondered, make up a typical Jónsi crowd? All sorts, apparetly, from secondary school age girls with their mums through to a good number from the well preserved grandparent generation.
Support band Timber Timbre opened with a confident set of songs in their unique alternative folk/blues style. Over a few years Dan and I have enjoyed discovering lesser known bands through the support slot at big gigs. Timber Timbre could be well worth another listen, particularly as they effectively performed to a veritable morris dance of audience members coming and going, standing up and sitting down, swapping places, passing each other in the aisles and talking most of the time. Respect please, people!
Jónsi kicked off with Stars in Still Water, just him and a guitar, haunting and vulnerable. There was a tangible sense of awe in the venue. Things began to build with Hengilás, the remarkable musicianship of his band immediately becoming obvious. (Also, the drummer playing the Xzylophone with cello bows – a genius idea and a remarkable sound).
Visually the whole performance was stunning, the full width video backdrop complemented by four large screens around the stage. The drawn animation style of trees and animals is ever present but never overwhelming, creating a sense of connection with nature that contributes to the etherial quality of the performance. From the comments of people afterwards (and many on YouTube live clips) there really is something spiritual about being at a Jónsi gig. I found the whole thing breathtaking, not unlike the best moments of worship.
The perfectly balanced set of songs included all of the songs off his latest album, Go, plus a few new ones. By the end there was just one song left to play, Grow Till Tall, delivered against an astounding visual backdrop. Search YouTube for a quick look. The whole evening had been an amazing, uplifting and overwhelming experience.
The live DVD and CD is out today, so if you wish you’d been there there is a smallscreen substitute… but really, you had to be there.