By Christopher "CJ" Smith
Hot off the heels of the release of their fifth album Með Suð í Eyrum Við spilum endalaust (which will debut at #15 on next week's Billboard albums chart), Icelandic post-rock heroes Sigur Rós joined forces this past weekend with Iceland's other big musical export, Björk, for a concert to promote environmental awareness in Iceland and the rest of the world.
MTV News' Kim Stolz and I went to check out the beautiful landscapes (and people!), wonderful food and drink (lamb and fish galore!) and, of course, all the festivities surrounding the show.
More than 10 percent of Iceland's population of 300,000 turned out for what was a beautifully crisp, cool and blustery June day. The sun may set but darkness never comes during the 24/7 daylight summertime, so we were strangely treated to full sets of music from the artists during full-on sunlight, even though it was 11 p.m. by the time the show ended.
Sigur Rós were again joined by the horns that accompanied them on their recent North American tour — turning their older, more melancholy songs into jubilant celebrations. The band is at the top of their game, surpassing even the heights reached during their 2002 tour. They have solidified into one of the world's finest groups. It almost seems unfair to compare other artists' live shows to the Icelandic titans: With 14 or so players on stage blasting post-rock, they recall Godspeed You! Black Emperor, another post-rock legend, except with much more rousing results.
The highlight of the set came when Björk joined the group for the new single, "Gobbledigook," which found the cast of musicians spilling onto all sections of the stage, jubilantly singing the choruses and banging on drums.
Björk's set was more or less the same set she's been playing since the release of 2007's Volta, with her full Icelandic choir and horn section filling in the flourishes. She's cancelled a few dates recently because of vocal issues, but she seemed to be able to belt out most of the parts (she shied away from some high notes, but not much was lost in translation there). The crowd went wild for the older songs, but one can't escape the feeling that she's striving to stay relevant.
All in all, it was an experience to behold — never-ending sunlight, great food, beautiful sights and sprawling crowds cheering on their hometown heroes — and all for a great cause.