Seabear performed at New York’s Highline Ballroom on Saturday as part of the Royal Flush Festival 2010. Fresh from an appearance at the Iceland Airwaves Festival on Thursday where they were joined onstage by Danish kindred spirits, Efterklang, the Icelandic septet lead by singer Sindri Már Sigfússon dazzled with a set of songs ranging from pop to experimental folk and Americana, most with gorgeous string and horn arrangements (with Eirikur Orri alternating between trumpet and French horn), in addition to guitars and keyboards.

The band kicked off with a poppier tune, “Lion Face Boy,” which was followed by the Americana influenced “Leafmask,” both from the group’s 2010 sophomore album, We Built a Fire.  The set also included an older song, “Singing Arc,” from the 2004 EP of the same title, as well as a newer melancholic gem, “Warm Blood,” and “Fire Dies Down.”

Sigfússon, who was on acoustic guitar for the entire set, filled the seconds between songs with his deadpan humor and funny anecdotes, whether it was stories about how at a previous New York show a fight broke out during the quietest part of their quietest song (the stunning “Cold Summer”), or a joke about the harmonica, an unusual one with horns (played by violinist Gudbjorg Hlin Gundmunsdottir on “Cat Piano”) dating from the band’s early years being “very old and falling apart, just like the band.”  When he announced the title of “Softship,” he added, “This is not a song about going to the toilet,” acknowledging that enunciation was key when speaking English with a strong Icelandic accent. The song, with its upbeat pop melody and Field Mice reminiscent style, had awesome vocal harmonies from the whole band as well as an electric guitar solo in the middle and a French horn solo at the end.

On “Seashell,” Sigfússon enlisted the audience to sing along on the “ah-ah-ah-ah-ahs,” adding, “I know it’s complicated stuff, but we believe in you.”  The crowd didn’t need much encouragement, though, as many of the adoring fans had been singing along the entire time.  After a brief break, the band returned to the stage for a three-song encore that included “We Fell Off The Roof,” with whistling parts, and closed with a crowd favorite, “I Sing I Swim,” from the 2007 debut album, The Ghost That Carried Us Away.  Captivated, the crowd was still yelling for more with some screaming, “Iceland Rocks!”  –Teresa Sampson, Photos by Teresa Sampson