Doors opened at 8.30 and everything had finished by 10. That must be the shortest gig I’ve ever attended. Opening act Finn is a young Icelander who sings sweet, sorrowful songs accompanied only by his guitar (and with occasional use of a sampler to multitrack his voice). His clear semi-falsetto invites obvious comparisons to Jónsi Birgisson, but without the melodrama. Closing his set with the evergreen “Moon River” was a touch of genius – it’s hard not to be moved by any rendition of that song.
There wasn’t much of a crowd in. Maybe 40 souls in total. I like Stereo as a venue, but I’ve never noticed before what a racket the plumbing makes down there when it’s quiet. There seemed to be a constant gurgling and sloshing of water coming from the walls and ceiling. As a distraction, though, it’s far less annoying than the usual preening and chattering haircuts who were, thankfully, absent.
Ólafur Arnalds looks young enough to be still in school. He was accompanied tonight by a string quartet. What the set lacked in length, it more than made up for in quality. Gentle, simple piano melodies provided a basic framework for the strings to colour in. It’s a formula, but an affecting one. A couple of tracks introduced some muted beats, but the general mood remained resolutely one of wistful melancholy. Towards the end, Ólafur pointed out to his projectionist that the machine had been shining nothing but blue light throughout the set. “Don’t worry, I like blue” he said with a wry smile. The projector was functioning for final track, covering the quintet with a myriad of green bird shapes. That last song was the beautiful “Himininn er að hrynja en stjörnurnar fara þér vel”, with its heartbreaking computerized voice aching with nostalgic longing and regret. It brings a lump to the throat every time I hear it.
The mood seemed a little solemn all round tonight. It’s not exactly music to party to, but even so, there seemed to be a somewhat weary air to proceedings. I guess that’s understandable given circumstances back home – and a wet Tuesday in Glasgow in front of a smattering of folk is hardly the sort of mood tonic required. Forty minutes didn’t necessarily feel too short for a set, but the whole evening lasted less long than the Man Utd – Celtic game. Enjoyable, though.
By the way, if you want to see photos, I’m sure there will be plenty on Flickr. There seemed to be as many cameras as people tonight. I like to paint pictures with words, me!