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Iceland's Sigur Ros delivers trippy, grand illusion at sold-out Orpheum

When the bassist and guitarist for Sigur Ros took the stage Thursday night at the sold-out Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, they each looked 12 feet tall.

I wasn’t tripping yet because the music hadn’t started. So I’m guessing it was an illusion, what with the video screens in effect lowering the apparent height of the stage.

Illusion is one of the things that makes Sigur Ros so mesmerizing.

There are clearly more sounds than a guitarist, bassist and drummer/keyboardist are making. There is a dizzyingly hypnotic array of visuals depicted on video walls that surround three sides of the stage – water rippling, a series of red matrices, blinding lasers, stylized fireworks, floating geometrics, etc.  And the three musicians are somewhere amid the thick stage fog and hazy lights.

The lyrics, the few that there are, are an illusion, too. This Icelandic band sings in Hopelandic, a constructured language, without semantic meaning but with Icelandic phonology. In other words, it sounds Icelandic but it’s not. Hence, it’s all about the feeling that lead singer/guitarist Jonsi puts into the performance.

Jonsi has a fascinatingly alluring voice; imagine a squeal with a falsetto that’s on pitch and passionate. OK, it’s manipulated through technology. An illusion, once again.

As a guitarist, he favors using a bow, much like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, with lots of special effects. In fact, a Sigur Ros show feels like multiple special effects that have a special affect on listeners.

Thursday’s first set was more meditative, with a quiet intensity to the droning minimalism. The second set featured harder, almost industrial sounds but they were never harsh and you certainly didn’t need earplugs. During "Staralfur," it felt like you were inside an old-school video game with explosions happening all around you.

At the beginning of the second set, with the three musicians – Jonsi, bassist Georg Holm and keyboardist Orri Pall Dyrason –  performing behind a LED video wall, it almost looked as if they were standing elsewhere and only appearing on the screen.  A grand illusion.

Thursday’s two-hour Sigur Ros concert was trippier than a Pink Floyd showAt least for my money. No need to have to interpret what “Comfortably Numb” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” mean. I’d prefer the dark side of Jonsi any time.

Twin Cities Film Fest (please, don't call it "Festival") announces a big, bold schedule

As it approaches its seventh birthday, the Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) has grown into a pretty solid local cultural shindig. The new festival, running Oct. 19-29th looks like one of the most interesting entries yet with a wide lineup of films in diverse genres.

This year’s buzzy group includes:

“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins’s intimate, small-scale drama of identity and connection. It’s told in three chapters over a period of 16 years, viewed through the life of a young black man from a rough neighborhood of Miami. The story follows him from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world amid the temptations of the drug trade.

“Lion,” starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman, follows a five-year-old Indian boy who is lost on a train that carries him to the crowded streets of Calcutta, far from home. A couple in Australia adopts him; 25 years later, he sets out to return to India and reconnect with his lost family.

“Blood Stripe,” acclaimed by the movie bible Variety as a “polished feature debut” by Twin Cities-based director Remy Auberjonois, focuses on the career of a female career Marine troubled by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on her return to civilian life.

Also in the crowded lineup are a rich selection of Halloween-friendly horror and science fiction; a documentary about how everyday sound effects are created in post-production by coconut-thumping, glass-breaking, paper-folding Foley artists; a tribute to the visionary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky; and DreamWorks' “Trolls,” an animated musical comedy voiced by Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Gwen Stefani and Russell Brand.

TCFF has become a fall counterweight to the spring’s Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). Headquartered in the ShowPlace ICON cinema in St. Louis Park, TCFF delivers big star-focused major studio filmslike “Room,” “Wild” and “The Imitation Game,” and films with connections to the area. In contrast, MSPIFF presents art-house indie offerings and subtitled international fare. TCFF focuses on appearances by Minnesota natives, with Alexandria’s veteran actor John Hawkes on hand last year to present the festival’s main feature, his detective noir “Too Late.” The festival honored Rochester's Lea Thompson with its lifetime achievement award at its preview gala earlier this month.

For more information about TCFF’s full film calendar and ticketing, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org.

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