Live Review: Ásgeir @ Melbourne Recital Centre

3 June 2023 | 10:18 am | Cyclone Wehner

Music with no pretension, Einarsson's show was communally restorative and delivered transcendence.


Ásgeir (Source: Supplied)

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Ásgeir Einarsson has long been a favourite with particularly Australian audiences. Though 2022's stunning fourth album, Time On My Hands, was little promoted here and didn't chart, the Icelander sold out the opening date of his first Antipodean tour since 2018.

Yet Ásgeir is apparently becoming a regular at the Melbourne Recital Centre's Elisabeth Murdoch Hall – the venue again perfect for him. Still, rarefied atmosphere aside, the electro-acoustic singer/songwriter couldn't be more modest. After his performance of one-and-a-half hours, he came out to meet fans at the merch stand.

With no support act, Einarsson hit the stage early at 7.30 pm – wearing his trademark beanie and joined by three other musicians including older brother Thorsteinn on guitar. The 30-year-old launched with the lilting Hærra, off 2012's debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn, seated at a keyboard. A lowkey, even shy, presence live, Einarsson only introduced himself with his third song. 

Einarsson's folktronica bears the otherworldliness that has defined Icelandic music following the ascent of that art-pop goddess Björk – and, at least initially in the evening, the lighting recreated the aurora borealis. But, though Einarsson's soundscapes are cinematic, he never fully surrenders to Sigur Rós' spectral mysticism, rather being grounded and temperate – his aesthetic Lutheran folk-soul. 

However, Einarsson's most evocative songs are those with experimental electronic arrangements. Summer Guest is gorgeous, but its echoes of Americana aren't wholly convincing. Either way, while the musicianship is impeccable, Einarsson's greatest gift is his voice – pliable yet sonorous. And, beyond any asceticism, his music betrays existentialist drama.

Einarsson's setlist concentrated on Time On My Hands. An early highlight was the romantic Borderland with its synthy textures. Einarsson subsequently picked up the guitar for the melodious Like I Am

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There were revelations, too. The multi-instrumentalist performed two cuts solo, again on guitar, his bandmates temporarily exiting. A poetic and philosophical meditation on consumerism, Limitless felt less evangelical than questioning.

Vibrating Walls, about clubbing, was even more pulsating than on record – enhanced by the MRC's strobes. It's the closest Einarsson has verged yet on EDM – and comparable to James Vincent McMorrow's post-genre adventures.

But Einarsson also journeyed back into his catalogue – with Youth, the tuneful lead single from 2020's pre-pandemic Bury The Moon, among the set's biggest moments, as well as the epic Breathe and, later, Going Home. Prefacing his spry breakthrough hit King And Cross, Einarsson noted that Dýrð í dauðaþögn (re-recorded in English as 2014's In The Silence) is now turning 10.

The headliner played two songs for the encore, beginning with the climatic Auto-tuned chorale Until Daybreak Bon Iver via Imogen Heap – and another fan fave in Torrent, as rockin' as Of Monsters And Men.

Alas, Einarsson didn't visit 2021's sublime EP The Sky Is Painted Gray Today, the songs Sunday Drive and On The Edge so haunting. Indeed, he might return to Australia and just perform deep cuts. 

Music with no pretension, Einarsson's show was communally restorative and delivered transcendence.