Live Review: Sólstafir / Manchester, UK 24th January 2015
t’s not just BjÖrk and Sigur Rós representing the Icelandic music scene, Sólstafir are well on their way to cementing a name for themselves, especially after their triumphant 2014 with the release of ‘Ótta’ which featured in many top albums of the year lists (mine included). Impossible to pigeonhole into a specific genre, Sólstafir attract fans from a broad spectrum, from the Darkthrone worshipping black metal-ers (they delved into black metal in their early days) to the more indie post rock followers. They are a band that are difficult to compare to others and their wide spread appeal continues to flourish.
Tonight they play the Deaf Institute, a different venue from the norm for many attendees; it strikes a good balance between being cosy and intimate, but not so squashed in your inadvertently cuddling strangers. The support band ‘Her Name is Calla’ impress with their stompy post-rock anthems, intertwined with delicate vocal harmonies and beautiful violin segments.
Sólstafir are magnificent, they have honed their craft over the years and are an extremely assured live band, each riff is executed with precision and ‘Addi’ is one of the most captivating front men I’ve ever witnessed, no one in the crowd can avert their eyes from the cool, calm yet intense singer/guitarist. Guitarist ‘Pjúddi’ is equally mesmerizing, clad in cowboy attire and mutton chops that could give the wolverine Hugh Jackman a run for his money, he looks pretty damn cool, and that’s before he whips the banjo out for the title track off the new album ‘Ótta’. A few tracks from the latest release make an appearance, and hearing them live further enforces the beauty and power of those songs, particularly ‘Lágneætti’ which is such a standout track. The aforementioned banjo presents itself, much to everyone’s delight for ‘Ótta’, and the very indie sounding ‘Dagmál’ is also translated live to absolute perfection. The emotionally devastating ‘Fjara’ from ‘Svartir Sandar’ is welcomed by the crowd, possibly their most familiar song which they did a stunning music video for, before finishing with ‘Goddess of the Ages’ from the KÖld album.
Drummer ‘Gummi’ was sadly not a part of this tour due to personal reasons, however Karl Smith filled in for the second leg of the European tour.
Sólstafir predominantly sing in their native tongue, yet the music resonates so deeply, evoking images of journeying into the wilderness surrounded by misty Icelandic landscapes. The mood of their songs comes across quite harrowing at times yet the atmosphere in the room is nothing but upbeat. This was a gig that no one wanted to end; the crowd is left in rapture as everybody chats about how good it was the minute they left the stage. Furthermore, no rock star behaviour from these boys as they emerged at the merch stand happy to meet and great fans. The Nordic cowboys were heart-stoppingly epic tonight, clearly not one of those ‘finding themselves’ bands but secure in their art and play with utter conviction, resulting in one of the most enchanting performances I’ve ever seen.
Words by: Heather Blewett