Sigur Rós Bring Down the Museum of Modern Art

Balzac, balls. Photo: Diana Sabreen

"Fuck you, Denmark!" It was a special show for Sigur Rós last night: Not only were they playing at MoMA, but they were doing it on Icelandic independence day — hence their laying down of the Icelandic national anthem midway through a two-hour set, and that fervent reaction from a fan (Icelanders gained their freedom from the Danes). The museum's gorgeous, if formal, main space — all high ceilings, frosted glass, and dark stone — made an obvious setting for the group and their measured intensity. Behind the stage, though, there lurked more magical elements: Rodin's sculpture of Balzac, sticking up among racks of synths like a hulking extra band member; white globes looming in the sculpture garden, throbbing with light.

As Jónsi bowed his guitar, the rest of the band manned a battery of keyboards, percussion, and even a xylophone. Special elements were introduced into this basic setup, too: a string section made up of women in headbands, a brass band clad all in white. The occasional, gratuitous attack on Denmark notwithstanding, the audience was worshipfully quiet, vibing pure ecstasy as the band hit their trademark dramatic crescendos, and they greeted each song's end with a chorus of hoots rather than polite claps. After an encore (fan fave "Pop Song"), Jónsi gently thanked the audience, which left the building woozy on complimentary vodka cocktails and the band's epic squall. It was no church service, though. We have reason to know that later the band broke out Champagne backstage, popping off corks aimed at each other's asses. —J. Gabriel Boylan