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Of Monsters and Men – live

In a crowded LCR, on a cold night in March, five men and two women take to the stage. Dressed a touch eclectically (from a full tuxedo, to a vibrant array of patterns,  and a bizarre – yet incredible – tasselled number which had a certain birdman quality to it), Of Monsters and Men are a group who somehow fit together seamlessly.

Of Monsters and MenPhoto via ofmonstersandmen.com

We would strongly advise against seeing Of Monsters live if you don’t like going to gigs where the majority of the audience know (and passionately perform) the majority of the lyrics. The singing begins with clap along track Dirty Paws, and neither the collective LCR vocals nor the clapping relent much over the course of the next hour.

Singers Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Raggi Þórhallsson both seem quite comfortable playing to 1,550 people, but they don’t take it easy as a result. Throwing themselves into every song, the band never stop engaging the crowd. Organising the six band members (plus tour instrumentalist Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir) is surely no mean feat.

Recent single Mountain Sound really focuses on the audience participation; everyone in the pit is instructed to join in Nanna’s section of the chorus, whilst “you guys who look really tall” are to sing with Raggi. The atmosphere is one of communal euphoria.

The more cynical would argue, no doubt, that the whole thing is rather twee, that the whole evening is reminiscent of childhood sing-a-longs. The same points would be argued by all present to be exactly what makes Of Monsters and Men such a lovely act. The camp frivolity, with the sometimes darker lyrics masked by upbeat melodies have led Of Monsters’ debut album to reach number 3 in the UK album charts, and 6 in America, so they must be doing something right.

These Icelanders are much warmer and far less distant than popular Icelanders Sigur Rós. They’ve also had greater chart success both in the UK and America, presumably in part due to their choice to write songs in English. Maybe in future Jónsi Birgisson will ask us to clap along and perform Hoppípolla as a round…

After big sounds like Little Talks, and current single King and Lionheart appear in the main set, the encore concludes as the album does, with (an extended version of) Yellow Light. The lighting technician didn’t miss a trick here; gels were picked accordingly. We presume everyone else was humming Dirty Paws for the considerable future, and left equally uplifted.


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January 2022
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