The unique, Icelandic indie-rock group Of Monsters and Men made its way to Minnesota last week, the true land of ice. Enormous success, grassroots aesthetics, and a largely mellow catalog left me wondering how the night would play out. I found myself sitting in quite an eclectic crowd. Goths could be found to my left, 40-something-year-old college professors to my right, young families behind me, 20-year-old hipsters dispersed, and a few individuals who couldn’t quite score tickets to the Wild game next door could be found stumbling about the floor. This odd mix furthered my confusion, but exponentially increased my excitement as I sat pondering how Of Monsters and Men would impress this diverse group.
The Icelanders sauntered out in black. The stage and backdrop matched the mood as the slow build-up of “Thousand Eyes” began. White lights pulsed from the Icelandic symbols behind the group as song intensified. As it turns out, the moody opener posed as a red herring and was potentially the concert’s weakest moment. Awkward transition ensued and the band moved onto one of my personal favorites, “Empire.” Through the course of the song, the band seemed to warm up, especially singer Ragnar Þórhallsson, setting the grounds for the rest of the show. The lack of flow in the set disappeared, vocals warmed, and cohesive synchronicity became the staple of the band’s performance.
“I Of The Storm” was the prime example of how the band’s collective talent made for a truly special evening. The slower song used a haunting aura left of faintly echoing guitars, drawn out piano chords, and snare drum beat, just as in the studio version. Nanna Bryndís’ voice filled the auditorium, “Are you really gonna love me when I’m gone?” The minimalist lighting of the simple triangular symbols complimented the ambient atmosphere perfectly. Then the chorus hit. All nine members of the touring band added to the melancholic song, creating a fuller sound than is present on the record. To be full of cliché, with Of Monsters and Men, the sum of the parts was greater than the whole. No one member stood out more than the other, yet collectively they moved the whole crowd into a state of awe.
After completing most of their second, more mature sounding album with the same tactics, Of Monsters and Men turned the night into a humble celebration of their accomplishments with “Lakehouse.” This track off of the first record sent the pleased fans into frenzy. The listeners, from the floor to the balcony, were dancing along to the horn-abundant track out of pure joy. The band rode this fun time through the end of the set with “Six Weeks” and “Little Talks.”
The encore began with “Organs,” a slower ballad that once again exceeded expectations. My least favorite Of Monsters and Men song began with a stripped down version of the band and progressively became richer with the addition of each musician. The end result left me with a new appreciation for the track and a smile. “We Sink” concluded the show and the band filed out for a final bow. It was pointed out to me that this conclusion was very fitting; the collective effort was celebrated collectively and modestly. After being unsure of what expectations I bore before the show, I can confidently say that Of Monsters and Men did more than enough to make any fan happy.