Sunday, 6 February 2011

793 JONSI, Mountain Man, Bristol Colston Hall, Wednesday 1 September 2010

Following last Autumn's splendid Sigur Ros gig at this venue, plus their venture towards more conventional songwriting aligned with their majestic and ethereal grasp of melody, I'd been paying more attention to them; thus it was no surprise that I'd leapt on, and loved, vocalist Jonsi's solo debut. This continued the Sigur Ros journey towards more accessible structure (singing in English, even!), whilst having a real "woodlands" feel to it; part bunnies romping in the dappled sunshine, part dark and mysterious shrouded depths. Made a change from the shagging whalesong, anyway! So I'd similarly leapt on tix for this gig. Unfortunately a combination of a sick babysitter, Rach's work deadlines and not being able to recruit a travelling companion at short notice saw me driving down on my own, hitting the venue at 1/4 to 8 with a ticket to shift! Turned out I wasn't the only one; unlike last year's Sigur Ros sell-out, tickets were still plentiful, as were punters with spares, so I was unable to even give it away! Bah!

Support Mountain Man were anything but; 3 delicate ladies plus one acoustic guitar (a family heirloom, apparently), singing gossamer-thin songs of backwoods heartbreak with nice harmonies, but making the likes of Pedro The Lion seem like Motorhead in the process!

Decamped for a drink, heading back into the busy but by no means full venue for 9, for the entrance of Jonsi. Again betassled but not glittered-up, Jonsi eased slowly into a set which was initially bleak, monochrome and frankly a little dull and dour, with the dark backdrop of tall trees accentuating this claustrophobic feel. Some of the material was also unfamiliar and poor, relying too much on Jonsi's otherworldly cooing and keening voice (which "The Guardian" described better than I could as, "one part Cocteau Twins' Liz Frazer, one part owl"!) to sustain it. However, "Kolnidur", with a welcome upbeat (both in mood and tempo) crescendo, offered hope, and following a break in which Jonsi complimented Bristol's, "lovely city," a soaring and euphoric "Go Do" finally got the gig into full gear. "Boy Lilikoi", almost catchy and hooky, continued the momentum, and "Animal Arithmetic", the best number on the album, was terrific, Jonsi prowling the stage like a wounded fox, growling in righteous fury. This however was topped by the encore, an unfamiliar newie "Sticks And Stones", which was a thrilling and pounding adrenalized wardance, Jonsi donning a native American headdress and whirling dervishly, and a final "Grow Till Tall", all slow-burn seething intensity, Jonsi again performing a dark cloud dance which reflected the angry cumulus backdrop, while the song built to a cacophonous and lengthy white noise crescendo. However, as if wishing to dispel this mood, Jonsi subsequently brought the band back on for a curtain call and bow, relishing the enthusiastic acclaim.

Grabbed a welcome if confusing set-list on the way out after the 1 hour 20 minute overall performance, driving back in double-quick time. Overall, a slightly disappointing black cloud-enveloped landscape for starters, but when the sun breaks through into Jonsi's world, boy does it shine.

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