The Opera House is no ordinary venue. A show here is a pleasantly unusual experience. Discreetly smuggled vodka bottles are replaced with expensive glasses of champagne and the screaming, sweaty mosh are substituted with air-conditioned seating. The absence of distractions — like the unenviable task of clawing your way to the front of the crowd — allows your focus to remain completely and persistently on the music.
Scandinavian folk chanting filled the room as the lights dimmed. With no warm-up performances, this acted as the build-up — not that Iceland’s “melodic folk” maestro Ásgeir needed it. In The Silence rolled in, and immediately you could physically feel the music.
Unlike at a festival, where his gentle, nuanced sound can dissipate and escape the confines of a tent, the Opera House contained and compressed the Ásgeir experience into shots of energy and intensity, as an armada of lights danced incessantly around the stage.
A row of instrumentalists — trumpet, trombone, violins — were lit up in bright colours. The seemingly shy Ásgeir was flanked by his drummer, whose hair and beard rivalled George R. R. Martin’s, and who would often play with a third drumstick in his mouth.
The first true taste of Icelandic language was Higher, and its introduction only added to the palpable atmosphere. Summer Guest brought a return to English, then, with the band illuminated in a blue hue, and smoky pillars of light searching and piercing the stage, he extended and manipulated Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box to grand proportions.
Ásgeir’s delicious falsetto licked the insides of the building, while the brooding bass vibrations could have been mistaken for heart palpitations. This was most obvious in the night’s most striking song, Going Home, which rose in intensity until mouths gaped open and the lights descended into a feverish strobe as he slammed out the chorus.
Ending with his haymaker, King and Cross, he left the stage with little ado, and the crowd hummed in anticipation of the encore. He returned after a few moments with a touching solo, then an explosive finale in Torrent. Rapturous applause and a standing ovation from every single crowd member followed.
With a humble bow, he exited with a minimum of fuss. The hour-long set had flown by, such was Ásgeir’s ability to completely engross an Opera House audience.