Sigur Rós with LA Phil

Reviews, Live Shows

220213 Breathing Forests by Gabriella Smith (world premier)

Sobbing beneath our masks

211203 "Seven Pillars" premier at Emerald City Music

Inspiring composition, mind-blowing performance

210911 Sylvan Esso at The Greek

Standard production, amazing music

210911 Tune Yards at Ford Amphitheater

Low expectations, high reward!

210129 Cinematic Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall livestream

Monochromatic, but enjoyable.

201201 Sylvan Esso "With Love" streaming

Heartfelt performance by one of my favorites

201010 NDT2: Dare to Say

Proving that streamed dance performances can move

201010 NDT: Endlessly Free

The Other You is my favorite choreography ever.

201010 Kaoru Watanabe: Haruka and Akira

"Kibou no Hikari" made me cry

200411 Arugakki at JCCC Montreal

First steps: shaky, exciting

200322 Nederlans Dans Theater at Place des Artes

Vladimir is mind-blowing

200221 DRUM Tao at Jorgensen Center

pina colada cotton candy

191116 Sylvan Esso at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Moving music, delightful dancing, incredible sound

191115 Ohmme at Teragram Ballroom

Fantastically quirky

191025 Hiatus Kaiyote at Novo

Amazing music, over my head

191023 Frances Cone and Delta Rae at Bootleg

Introspective, thoughtful music vs showboating

191017 Cosmo Sheldrake at Echoplex

Great samples, less-inspiring looping

191013 Oregon Symphony premier of Andy Akiho Percussion Concerto

My new favorite piece of classical music.

191009 GoGo Penguin's Koyaanisqatsi at Regent Theater

A worthwhile addition to an iconic movie

190925 Cornelius at Echoplex

Bright lights, big music.

190726 New Original Works Festival 2019 at REDCAT

Craving a "composition"

190717 Mitski at Hollywood Palladium

How to make pop songs performative?

190614 Imogen Heap at Greek Theatre

Hide and Seek and not much else

190601 Snarky Puppy at Orpheum

So Snarky!

190319 Monterey Symphony: Sound Waves Concert IV

A drifting concert. Water Concerto anchored by Chris Lamb

190316 Miyamoto is Black Enough, at Wallis

Holy shit this was a good show!

190127 Hidaka at International Dinner 2019

Go Hidaka Taiko!

190116 Third Coast Percussion with Hubbard Street Dance

Unsure why I was unmoved

181120 Dermot Kennedy at Fonda

Solid show to adoring fans

181108 Birdtalker at Hotel Cafe

A special band, early in their career

180623 Olafur Arnalds at Cathedral Sanctuary

The power of sweet/sad melody!

180614 Dirty Projectors at El Rey Theater

Amazing quirk-pop!

180310 Miyake x UnitOne

UnitOne shines!

180224 Batare at La Mirada Theater

Laudably ambitious but scattered.

180223 QuiltCon 2018

Inspiring works, inspiring community.

180131 Kagami Kai at Asian Art Museum

Amazing mochi-making skills, frustrating calligraphy, and take-home encouragement

170416 Sigur Rós with LA Phil

Amazing concert with a few missed opportunities.

170115 A Seed: Ichi-Ryu Manbai

Overwrought concept, thin music, tragic flowers

160927 Sigur Rós at Hollywood Bowl

Amazing sound needs mixed set-list

160918 Road to Kumano: Taiko Project with Chieko Kojima

Ambitious new work!

160409 Locations and Dislocations: An Ecomusicological Conversation

thought-provoking, inspiring, exhausting

130514 Stuck Elevator was fantastic

Powerfully uneventful ending

081012 Byron's Bottled Water Operas

Welcome. Stay and think.

Sigur Rós with LA Phil

Hiro and I have been looking forward to this show since last December, when we snagged tickets at the moment they went on sale (and even then only got the last few seats).  We scheduled our family vacation around it... we listened to Sigur Ros in the run-up to the show... and on the day-of, we rode Alphonse all the way to Disney Hall.  We were ready!

Incredibly, it lived up to all the anticipation.  The concert was fantastic.

The choral group Schola Cantorum Reykjavík opened the show and had me twitching with excitement after many of the pieces.  The beautiful voices and harmonies were saved from sappy-ness by the interesting, minor melodies.  Our favorite was Heyr þú oss himnum á by Anna Þorvaldsdóttir (pronounced Thorvaldsdottir).

(Heyr þú oss himnum á)

Next was a symphonic work called Aeriality, also by Anna Þorvaldsdóttir (who was in the audience).  The first 9 minutes feel pleasurably aimless and exploratory, then a glimpse of resolution, followed by more searching.  Hiro and I both loved it.  It felt perfect following Schola Cantorum Reykjavík.


Next was the U.S. premier of Piano Concerto #2 by Haukur Tómasson which, I'm embarassed to say, I didn't much like.  Perhaps I would have been more prepared for the dischordant melodies at a different time in the show, but I was bored, and then felt guilty for being bored.

But then... this!

(The whole concert is on Youtube thanks to LA Phil!!!)

Just listen to the first song in the video above.  Wow!  The builds are so smooth and the tones are so rich.  The sound was amazing in Disney Hall.  I was on the verge of tears the whole song.


I enjoyed all the pieces with LA Phil, but being accustomed to watching bands perform, I wanted more individual instrument features and more opportunities for individuals to shine.  I recognize this is somewhat counter the idea of an orchestra, but for me, the rich mix is made all the more striking when individuals and small groups are given moments to stand out.

After an intermission, Sigur Ros played a set of pieces by themselves.  This was the only aspect of the show that didn't make sense to me.  By the fifth or sixth song I was tired of the sweet/sad emotion of Sigur Ros' music and the limited tonal range of the three players.  While I never got tired of Jonsi's voice, at times I wished the drummer had more range, to be able to take the piece to another level.  I wanted plucked guitar to contrast the bowing.  Basically, I wanted mood changes.  Why not mix everything from the evening into a more wholistic set?  I would love to hear a few pieces by Sigur Ros, then with LA Phil, then take a break for a choral work, then just LA Phil... Using all the elements would allow for more dramatic emotional swings, and in my opinion, an even better concert.

That having been said, the little blemishes just made the challenge of the project all the more apparent.  How many performers were there?  100?!  And how many of them came from Iceland?  How many mics were required, and how long did it take to design and set up that ridiculous stage?  We feel so lucky to have seen the concert.  Thank you to all the performers and workers behind the scenes who made it happen!

Notes for sound crew

  • There were only a few moments of feedback, and that's a remarkable thing.  You audio engineers had a massive challenge in this show; micing dozens of instruments, the drumset a few feet from violins, a mix of acoustic, amplified, and recorded sources, and audience on all sides.  Stress! 
  • We sat behind the stage and I appreciated being on the backside of the big speakers, though the bass overpowered the vocals in a few instances from this standpoint.  Otherwise, the lush reverb of Sigur Ros and overall sound was great here.
  • The volume toward the end of the Sigur Ros set was too much for me (but I had earplugs so if that's what others want, it's all good!).
  • Was that pop in the 5th piece someone in Sigur Ros unplugging a live line?

Notes for lighting crew

  • I loved how you half-lit the audience through the first acts and gradually moved to total darkness for Sigur Ros.
  • I like the "light bars" and loved how you arranged them to mimic the Hall's organ.  I think the slower, etherial effects and solid colors are more effective than flashing.
  • The same goes for the projection mapping.  The video and fast-changing visuals on the ceiling and over the organ felt distracting.  Perhaps like Sigur Ros' music the lighting could attempt to use simple elements like extremely long builds and harmonic repetition with variations.  A single "mega-bulb" hanging over the stage that gradually gets fiery bright would match the epic build of the final piece.

Notes for Schola Cantorum Reykjavík

  • I loved everything but the walk-on.  Having the conductor "conduct" the entrance made it feel too staged and the shuffling and stepping onto risers feels silly.  If the conductor entered with the performers, or even last, it would feel natural... like, "this is how we do it in Reykjavik".
  • The stomping in the fourth piece doesn't work too well.  Perhaps stomp dynamics or more varied relationship to the bars would make it feel more rich.

Notes for LA Phil / Anna Þorvaldsdóttir

  • Again, Aeriality was amazing!  Searching for something to suggest... The skin-rubbing tones felt underdeveloped, with the entry and exits too sharp and overall too simple.  The ridiculously long silence after the piece was so enjoyable.  Thank you Mr. Salonen!

Notes for LA Phil / Sigur Ros

  • The recorded audio crackle on the second piece doesn't work for me in a live setting.
  • The tympany in track 4 sounds too "plasticy" to me... perhaps a fabric cover or natural-skin drum here would help.  The horn break at the end came exactly when my ears wanted that kind of break.
  • Jonsi's long note in the 8th piece was amazing but felt a little too showy, like "ta-da!"  Would it be possible to have orchestral instruments join the note once we know what's going on, and softly fade out before Jonsi ends?  That would keep the mood musical instead of performative.

Notes for self

  • Right now you're working to be a compelling "feature performer", with choreography and rhythms that impress.  This risks feeling like a juggling act.  Find the musical moments (including choreography) and make sure what you're performing is toward this end, and not to be "impressive".