Show Review + Photos: Seabear in New York, NY

Seabear in NY 10/16/10
by Beth Yeckley

October 16, 2010

[New York, NY] When I got to Highline Ballroom in Chelsea, I was greeted by the sounds of Icelandic wonder septet, Seabear, illuminated by low glowing lights and a cozy crowd. As lead singer, founder, and one time solo member of the band, Sindri Már Sigfússon finished up, he talked about how the band eats so much pizza every time they’re in New York. While the night was replete with vibrant pop, crisp folk, and the softer serenading that Seabear is, in part, known for, it was Sigfússon’s humorous comments between songs that entertained (making note that the song’s name is “Soft Ship” and not a poorly enunciated title about the toilet, and asking all the band mates what their favorite color is—the answer is “pink”); it was the band’s sheer joy of playing that swept through the onlookers.

What struck me the most is the sweet demeanor of the band. This isn’t meant to evoke an unworthy portrayal of the band, but really, they ooze sweet. I guess more accurately, they ooze sweetness, and an equally explosive and rapturous adventure in music—short and simple: they’re damn good and probably very pleasant to have a drink with.

At the show, like any live show, I was able to visually connect the dots, accentuating the beautiful harmonies I’d heard before on The Ghost That Carried Us Away and their most recent album, We Built A Fire. Their backing vocals are a thing of art, running in stride with Sigfússon, and adding elements that he alone could not produce—at times two girls chattering in the background, at others they are wooing you to sleep, and even at others they are eerily pulling you in. There is a joyous and child-like wonderment in their vocals. My whole perception of their music changed when I saw them live—if anything, they created an energy that appears tamer on the albums.

The delicate pop additions of the keys by Sóley Stefánsdóttir and the billowing textures of the horns played by Eirikur Orri were really enjoyable to hear flowing with the rest of the band. It has to be said that Guðbjörg Hlín Guðmundsdóttir (violinist and harmonica player) was quite possibly the most energetic and fierce presence on stage—at times the music felt like it would snap the strings under her fingers. Sigfússon kept a level of calm on the acoustic the whole night, and the two guitarists, Halldór (Dóri) Ragnarsson and Örn Ingi Ágústsson, played in their own spotlight to the side. They helped usher in the frenetic, jam-y moments of the night with drummer Kjartan Bragi Bjarnason, on songs like “Warm Blood,” “Wolfboy, “Fire Dies Down,” and “Seashell.”

They finished the official show prompting an audience sing-along for “Seashell,” with Sigfússon noting, “You all look like pretty good singers… am I right in that assessment?” It was a pretty blissful segue into an encore of three very strong songs, including “Arms,” “We Fell Off the Roof,” and “I Sing I Swim.” Seriously, if you get the chance to see them on their next US tour (or abroad in Europe, where they currently are), GO!