When I heard Of Monsters and Men for the first time a few months ago on the radio, I said to my friend, “Who is this?” (A fair question for someone who doesn’t listen to the radio much, I think. We ended up deferring to Shazam.) I liked them immediately. Their fame has just begun to snowball in the US since winning Iceland’s Músiktilraunir (a battle of the bands) in 2010. I can only imagine they left their competition shaking in their boots after they finished their set. After Thursday’s performance at the Fine Line Music Café on March 29, that hunch was validated.
As part of what seemed like the Icelandic invasion, Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir of Lay Low opened for Of Monsters and Man. Sigrúnardóttir said she’s normally got her band behind her, but couldn’t afford to bring them on tour. No matter, though, the singer-songwriter’s personality filled the stage easily. She talked about getting lost on the bus system earlier in the afternoon and that someone (who was in the audience) was able to get her back to the city alright; they had a moment. The crowd was energized from the get-go. Sigrúnardóttir noticed, saying, “The opener doesn’t usually get any ‘woos.'” She got lots, and probably even more after that comment (even when she asked who the Icelanders were in the crowd, there were a good amount of cheers from the full-blooded Americans that made up most of the audience).
With only a short intermission after Lay Low, Of Monsters and Men humbly took the stage. The group consists of Nanna (vocals, guitar), Raggi (vocals, guitar, melodica, glockenspiel), Brynjar (guitar, melodica), and Arnar (drums, percussion, melodica, glockenspiel, vocals), Árni (accordion/keys), and Kristján (bass). The band has been likened to Arcade Fire, Mumford and Sons, etc.—high praise for an international band in its infancy (their first full album releases next week in the US). With the sheer amount of people on stage at once, I feared the sound would be more like noise than music. But that was never the case; Of Monsters and Men sounded flawless. I’m no expert when it comes to pitch and all that, but even if they did miss some notes, it wouldn’t have mattered. They played together like they’d been doing it for decades. Their radio-hit “Little Talks” was easily the most sang-along song. But others like “King and Lionheart” and “Dirty Paws” left me feeling that concert high. The audience knew their stuff—pretty awesome considering their unreleased album My Head is an Animal doesn’t do so until April 3 (you can listen to it in full on NPR’s First Listen).
Going into this concert, I knew it was going to be something I would’ve severely regretted missing. And I was right. The next time OMAM come to Minneapolis, I can almost guarantee they will be in a bigger venue (Fine Line was packed to its capacity, maybe more). And good for them, too; they totally deserve it. It’s just, in a bigger venue like the State Theatre, you lose that intimacy. Standing front row, a-little-off-center and being able to feel the floor boards vibrate makes it a concert I will always compare others to. Seeing them on the brink of their full-fledged stardom is something I fully intend on bragging about (apologies in advance for that).
On top of all this, they seem like really nice people, and very appreciative of their fortune. It was a girl’s birthday to the right of me, and she yelled out as much. And you know what they did? They sang “Happy Birthday” to her, name and all. You just don’t find that everywhere. I really hope OMAM maintains this sort of endearing, wide-eyed persona as a group. It’s probably naive of me to think that, and I’m not saying they’re going to turn into assholes. There’s just something great about them, plain and simple.
I fully recommend getting on this bandwagon now. Their tour continues through Chicago, Boston, New York, Canada, Europe … all over the place. If it’s a sold-out show, try to get a ticket. If it’s not, get it now.
Of Monsters and Men
“Beneath My Bed”
“Slow and Steady”
“King and Lionheart”
“Love Love Love” “Close to Me”
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