Since the band first formed around front man Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson in 1994, Iceland’s Sigur Rós has carved out an enduring musical niche with its genre-bending blend of rock, classical, minimalist and ambient sounds. To carry the power, dynamics and subtle nuances to packed houses on its 2017 springtime North American tour, Sigur Rós relies on a versatile Meyer Sound LEO Family reinforcement system supplied by VER Tour Sound.
Integrating Meyer Sound into the tour production was the decision of FOH engineer Ingvar Jónsson, who has been intermittently associated with the band since 1999.
“The LEO Family system is working extremely well and I am super happy with it,” says Jónsson. “The clarity in the mids and mid-high ranges makes it easy to get clean, full-power vocals and guitars, which is ideally suited to the sounds of Sigur Rós.” He also cites the inherent linearity of LEO Family as a decisive factor: “The new design of the loudspeakers and internal amplifiers produces a sound that has the same tonality at high and low power.”
Jónsson acknowledges the importance of meticulous loudspeaker design in achieving this result. “It’s not just that you have a flat frequency response, but that you also have very close phase coherence. That means every frequency is produced at the same time, so you are getting much more detailed sound and separation of instruments in the mix.”
A typical system configuration for most tour venues (2500 to 4000 capacity) deploys main hangs per side of six LYON line array loudspeakers over six LEOPARD compact line array loudspeakers. Outfills, as needed per side, are normally four LEOPARD under two 900-LFC low-frequency control elements. Four single LEOPARD loudspeakers are spaced across the stage for front fill, while four 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements per side in a cardioid configuration supply foundational deep bass. The system is tuned for each show by VER system engineer Patrick Gilligan using a Galileo Callisto loudspeaker management system and Compass control software.
“Sigur Rós is one of the most dynamic bands I’ve ever worked with,” says Gilligan. “The clarity and transparency of the Meyer system works very well with them, and the variations in volume are a big part of the effect. The feeling you get when it gets loud after a long, quiet passage is much more impactful.”
The base system is augmented as needed for larger, outdoor venues. In an early April swing through California, the system covering Berkeley’s Green Theatre was beefed up with main hangs of 12 LYON over three LEOPARD. Use of an existing house system is mandatory at some venues on the tour, though on the California leg the band benefited from installed LEO Family systems at Oakland’s Fox Theater and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
After the short swing through California in April, Sigur Rós returned in May for a second leg with two festival appearances and 18 headline shows commencing on May 20 and wrapping up at the storied Forest Hills Stadium (better known for tennis) on June 17.
Alongside Björk, Sigur Rós is one of Iceland’s most successful music exports, with worldwide concert ticket and album sales augmented by frequent inclusion of their music in films and television shows. Recordings by the band have been heard in the final scene of the films Vanilla Sky and Penelope as well as on television’s CSI: Miami, BBC’s broadcast of the 2012 Olympic Games, and several other TV shows, film trailers, and advertisements.
In addition to Birgisson on guitar (often played with a bow), the current membership of Sigur Rós includes Georg “Goggi” Hólm on bass, keyboards, and backing vocals; and Orri Páll Dýrason on drums, percussion, and keyboards