The experimental-rock group Sigur Ros is moving art. The Icelandic band is notorious for its boundless creativity and surreal live shows, and its performance last night at the Michigan Theater lived up to its reputation, while still managing to wow the audience by offering the unexpected. For the opening song, a thin, mesh-like curtain stood in front of the stage, behind which orange light illuminated the distorted figures of guitarist and vocalist Jon Thor Birgisson, bassist Georg Holm, keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson and drummer Orri Pall Dyrason.

The light changed to green as a track from their new album, Tekk, meandered through the speakers. Then emerged drums, a high androgynous voice singing a made-up language and the shadow of a bow piercing a guitar. Few people in the audience could possibly know what Birgisson was saying – the lyrics and song titles are either written in Icelandic, a made-up language called Hopelandic or a mix of the two – or why he decided to play guitar with a bow, but there was no complaining. The audience wailed, cheered and whooped at the beginning and ending of each song.

Perhaps the strangest part of the concert was when that sheer curtain was lifted after the first song, when the audience saw the creators of that powerful sound were only four men. The music is so intricate, so ferocious and so emotional that it’s almost surreal to see it recreated onstage. They may simply be musicians, but not many man-made entities have the natural, transcending beauty Sigur Ros achieves with every song.

Occasionally they played a softer piece and were joined by opening act Anima – a long-time Sigur Ros collaborator. Classical strings and keyboards would mark the musical centerpiece, and Birgisson’s voice would take a less prominent role – humming and moaning without words. But even those eventually build up and erupt, even if only for a minute or two.

Sigur Ros has their share of theatrics. In the middle of “Untitled One,” they paused. The band remained in place, the projected video froze and the lights were stationary. It was one full minute of creepy anticipation before they continued and filled the theater with light and gorgeous, undulating sound. They sang, thrashed on violins, stomped on drums and wailed furiously into microphones. Together they constructed layers of unbridled orchestration. Birgisson hunched over his guitar looking like a spider with his bow before collapsing into a heap on the stage floor, a projected flock of birds zoomed across the stage and the theater went dark. Then the song ended and the thin curtain descended again.

Something needs to be said about the creativity of Sigur Ros’s technical team. They flashed spotlights to a songs’ drum rhythm, changed colors and shapes, traversed the audience, illuminated the entire theater and abruptly left the audience in darkness. A boy leaping, flying birds and dolls faces, were a few of the distorted images projected on the screen, the band and the audience; it created a total vertigo effect.

Pre-conceived ideas of art and music were shattered. Sigur Ros blur the lines between concert and performance art; obscure the autonomy between art and artist. The band is theatrical without coming off as pretentious and gimmicky – everything worked together. Our parents may have had Pink Floyd and The Velvet Underground for uncanny live shows, but we have Sigur Ros.

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