When it comes to bands whose reputations perhaps precede them, Sólstafir is arguably a band that fits into that category, thanks to their critically acclaimed 2014 album Ótta, and January 24 saw them bring their live show to The Deaf Institute in Manchester.
There was already a fair amount of people assembled in the venue as openers Her Name Is Calla (5/10) took to the stage but unfortunately they got off to a bit of a shaky start. Their opening song just wasn’t all that engaging and the members didn’t look all that confident with their performance. However as the set progressed and the performance gained a little more momentum and energy, it did improve a little and the way the violin was utilised into the music was good. Unfortunately, the set wound up going full circle in the end, with the final two songs being rather dreary uninteresting affairs, and it especially didn’t help that they dragged out the ending of their closing track for what had to be at least five minutes – the phrase ‘flogging a dead horse’ comes to mind.
Of course, things picked right up with Sólstafir (9/10) of course, and after coming onstage to Náttfari, which was a very atmospheric introduction, they got right into things with their track Köld. An early highlight of the set was when they performed Ótta, the title track from their aforementioned latest album, and having Sæþór playing banjo rather than guitar for it really added to the atmosphere and overall feel for the song – it truly was a stunning song to see live.
Although Sólstafir were without their drummer Guðmundur, who was absent from the tour for personal reasons as detailed on the band’s facebook, those who weren’t familiar with the band’s lineup wouldn’t have guessed that stand-in drummer Karl wasn’t a permanent member. The chemistry was there, and the band sounded very together and tight, so the performance certainly wasn’t lacking at all. In particular, frontman Aðalbjörn was excellent at his job as he engaged with the crowd well, and injected humour into the set at times – it certainly made things more fun as he marvelled over the word ‘Manchester’, told the crowd they’d play for four more hours if everyone bought all the merch and played the role of roadie as he fixed a broken bass drum.
After informing the crowd that there would be no encore, they got right to it with two more songs and they closed with the incredible Goddess Of The Ages which saw the band really giving it their all for one last time – it even ended with Aðalbjörn strutting across the bar as if he owned it!
As a fan of their older material as well as the new stuff, it perhaps would have been nice to hear an inclusion from Í Blóði og Anda, but that’s a minor nuance in an otherwise excellent performance from the group. Go and see this band live – you won’t be disappointed.