I first discovered Ásgeir back in March 2014 when Triple J’s Linda Marigliano shared the video for his hit single, “King And Cross”, on her blog. I was mesmerised by this odd combination of indie pop and electronic music with folk influences and enchanting falsetto; I couldn’t get enough of it. When I heard he was playing at The Forum last July, I bought my tickets straight away and enjoyed an amazing performance. And now, less than 6 months later, I had another opportunity to see him live. This time, it was at a slightly more famous venue: The Sydney Opera House.
The Concert Hall was packed and buzzing before lights faded and silence fell. An Icelandic tribal song began as half an orchestra walked on. A saxophone, a trumpet, a trombone, three violins, and a cello. His band followed and then Ásgeir. Epic! He started in English, playing “Head In The Snow” while his heavily bearded drummer was grooving to the side. The stage lights were like a show on their own, and that was only the beginning, with more captivating displays to come.
The first 10 minutes was the ultimate juxtaposition. An almost intimidating tribal song was quickly followed by the graceful falsetto melodies. Then he said “Thank you” and, if you’ve never heard Ásgeir speak English, it’s just too cute! That’s Ásgeir for you. Powerful, beautiful, adorable.
He switched things up into Icelandic, singing “Dýrð í dauðaþögn” (“In The Silence”) and sharing magical harmonies. “Hærra” (“Higher”) saw him move onto the keys for the first time and use the brass and strings behind him to turn the intro into a masterpiece of its own. Ásgeir was in his element when singing in his native Icelandic, and it forced the listener to hear the beauty of the music, with the lyrics more like an added element than guiding narration.
Back to English, he played “Going Home”. The first chorus was followed by an awe-inspiring keys solo but it was the song’s finale that stole the show. The synth that follows the melodic brass was accompanied by strobe lights, slowly building up before a big drop. Usually, this is where the brass and synth would peacefully fade out but not this time. The brass lifted again, followed by a light show, and then a nightclub-esque bass build up. Lights out, huge applause, end.
Having seen Ásgeir before, I was expecting talented vocals and an artist willing to truly perform his songs. As a gig goer, I want an artist to mix things up and step outside the box. All of that is exactly what I got and, yet, I never could have expected this level of showmanship. It was a show fit for a grand stage.
His blissful cover of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” was next, before two of his newer songs,“Dreaming” and“Nú hann blæs”. This was where he really took advantage of his musicians at the back, with wavering strings setting a mood before powerful brass chords and loud symbols gave it life. An amazing instrumental in “Nú hann blæs” filled the Concert Hall as if the entire Sydney Symphony were on stage. During “Samhljómur” (“In Harmony”), the strings were such a perfect addition that it left me wondering if the original had been written to include a string quartet, only to have it removed before its release.
Ásgeir finished with a crowd pleaser, “King And Cross”. People were singing along, a group of girls stood from their seats to dance, and the stage was consumed with energy. There was a huge applause, one last adorable “thank you”, and everyone walked off. Of course, that wasn’t it. (It never is.) Feet were banging, accompanied by wolf whistles and huge cheers, all in hope of an encore. Back came Ásgeir, all alone. He picked up his guitar as the lights focused in on him.
We were blessed with an incredibly intimate rendition of “On That Day”, delivered with raw emotion and soft vocals. Finally, moving back to his keyboard, the whole crowd knew what was next. The well-known chords for “Torrent” got the audience screaming, accompanied by a sick drum beat, and each vocal line was followed by explosive instrumentals and an epic light display. When it finally came to an end, Ásgeir and his bandmates walked forward and gave a bow, greeted with a well-deserved standing ovation. That ended an evening where The Opera House was filled with passion and energy before Ásgeir left the stage and the crowd trickled out, finally leaving it In The Silence.
Hometown: Laugarbakki, Iceland
Latest Album: In The Silence, released 01 March 2014
Sounds like: James Vincent McMorrow, probably other Icelandic artists
Say what? Ásgeir is younger than me. He’s only 22. First time I’ve actually said “Say what?!” aloud when reading up on an artist.
Head In The Snow
Dýrð í dauðaþögn (In The Silence)
Frost (Lupin Intrigue)
Heart Shaped Box
Nú hann blæs
Samhljómur (In Harmony)
King And Cross
On That Day