I’ve always been drawn to music that makes me feel. What caught my attention was Of Monsters and Men‘s folk aspect of their music. Their 2011 debut album My Head is an Animal, without fail, lifts my spirits and I often times sing along, loudly, in the seclusion of my car. While 2015’s sophomore release Beneath the Skin is heavier and a bit darker in subject matter, I was interested in seeing how it would play live.
Unfortunately, I missed the Norwgian Indie pop opening act, Highasakite, actually pronounced High As A Kite, due to an issue with my photo pass. From the fans I spoke to in-between sets, they were well received. Lead singer Ingrid Helene Håvik was praised for her impressive vocal range. A few minutes before Of Monsters and Men took the stage, the general buzz of conversation was interrupted by a young man proposing to his girlfriend on stage; she said yes. Congratulations, you crazy kids.
The nine piece touring band was silhouetted with heavy back lighting as they took the stage. They opened in the cover of darkness with the atmospheric and slow building “Thousand Eyes.” Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s voice floats above the insistent drumming, eventually being joined by Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson’s harmonies. Nanna slid over to the tom drum set up beside her microphone to add to the pounding beat. The stage lights flashed between complete blackness to blinding lights. To say they were going for a theatrical approach is an understatement. They used this dramatic lighting throughout the night. Their only set decoration were four giant steel M’s, which looked similar to their oMaM logo and a mountain range. The changing LED lights inside this structure changed a little too subtly in contrast to the Arena’s lighting.
Whenever the band pulled out a song from their first album, there was a distinctly different feel. Drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson stood from his drum kit with his long arms extended into the air while he and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson lead the crowd into clapping out the rhythm. The audience also responded enthusiastically to the songs they were more familiar with. The Arena floor was set up as general admission and was generously spaced out. Whenever one of the moodier new songs came out, the people on the floor left on another drink run. I was able to move between sides of the stage and every time I ended up about 15 people back without effort.
Perhaps the sound was swallowed up by the cavernous size of the Arena. Four additional musicians bounced between instruments ranging from keyboards, glockenspiels, drums, trombone, flugal horn and trumpet. It was very difficult to hear the delicate brass arrangements, except for the trumpet solo during “Little Talks,” and I never caught a note from the accordion. It was disappointing to have those dynamics drop out.
Overall, I enjoyed the direction the band has gone, but I don’t feel like the crowd appreciated it as much. Of Monsters and Men clearly shone when they engaged their audience. Their performance aspect, and I mean that in the sensational way, appeared to be lost on the crowd.
King and Lionheart
I of the Storm
Wolves Without Teeth