HOLLYWOOD — Sigur Rós’ voyage from Iceland to sunny California to perform at the Shortlist concert Monday proved worthwhile, as the dreamy rock quartet was awarded the evening’s namesake prize.
The Virgin Megastore Shortlist Prize for Artistic Achievement in Music, as it is formally known, was given to Sigur Rós along with $10,000 and a $10,000 donation to a September 11 relief charity in the band’s name.
Sigur Rós, whose name means “Victory Rose” in Icelandic, claimed the trophy at the end of an eclectic concert at the Knitting Factory that included performances from them and fellow nominees Nikka Costa, the Dandy Warhols and Talib Kweli.
Videos from the other Shortlist Prize nominees — Ryan Adams, Air, Bilal, PJ Harvey, Gorillaz and Jay Dee — were shown throughout the evening, while the organizers encouraged the capacity crowd to check out all of the contenders. The nominees, whose albums qualified by having sold fewer than 500,000 copies, were narrowed in late summer from a list of 80.
Sigur Rós, whose powerful performance found lead singer Jon Thor Birgisson struck with so much emotion he turned his back to the audience and sat down on the stage for a song, was the clear favorite of the audience, which included many of the panel members who decided the winner earlier that evening at a private dinner debate.
Beck, who introduced the group with producer Ross Robinson, watched intensely from the balcony. Robinson declared that his favorite going into the voting dinner came out victorious. “They are like one of those leaf blowers that can come in and blow away all the garbage,” he said.
Other panelists present at Monday’s concert included the Roots’ ?uestlove, Mos Def, Macy Gray, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, producer Steve Lillywhite and other insiders and music journalists. Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and Lucinda Williams also submitted votes, though they could not make the event, according to organizers.
“We were politically correct for at least 95 percent of the proceedings, then when it came down to crunch time, there was more pugilism,” ?uestlove said. “[The Short List] is necessary. It’s bringing light into the world.”
Music industry veterans Greg Spotts and Tom Sarig, who founded the Shortlist Prize earlier this year (see “Beck, Dave Grohl, Others To Recognize Best Non-Hit Album” ), said the voting was so close they nearly called it a tie. Although they did not reveal who came in second, ?uestlove hinted it was Talib Kweli, who ignited the crowd by bringing Mos Def on stage for an impromptu Black Star reunion.
Other concert highlights included Costa’s “unplugged,” hit-laden set, and surprise acoustic opening performances by David Poe and Julia Fordham.
The Shortlist Music Prize is the first of many annual award events, according to organizers. Next up will be the Shortlist Fiction Project in early 2002.
Sigur Rós’ winning album, Ágætis Byrjun , which translates from Icelandic to English as “A Nice Beginning,” was recorded in 1998, though was not released in the U.S. until May (see “Sigur Ros Get ‘Nice Beginning’ In U.S.” ).