I had the pleasure of interviewing Of Monsters and Men in April of 2011. It was less than two years ago, but the band was just getting their footing in the United States. A video of them playing a live version of “Little Talks” was making some waves on YouTube. I played the song for my friends who enjoyed it, but had never heard of this obscure Icelandic folk band.
Who would have guessed that on November 21, 2012 Of Monsters and Men would blow away a massive crowd at Terminal 5 in New York City, selling out two nights of performances? (My friends couldn’t even get tickets. And believe me, they tried.)
The show was everything you could ask from an indie-folk performance. Trumpet, piano and accordion notes rang out over the space, hitting beautiful highs and melancholy lows. Three of the male band members all donned identical three-piece suits in assorted colors, adding an additional level of adorable friendship matching-ness. However, it was the female support that shone the brightest; Árni Guðjónsson was the strongest of the backup bandmembers, working her blond ass off alternating between piano riffs and trumpet blasts.
Co-lead singers Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson were sweethearts when I spoke with them last year, and that genuine kindness and excited energy was evident during last week’s show. They took turns and played off of one another with an ease that usually comes after years and years on stage.
It was hard to pick out which voice was more enjoyable; every time I decided who I liked better another solo came and changed my mind. Although I will say that Hilmarsdóttir’s vocals were a great twist when the group covered Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Skeletons.”
Of course the crowd went nuts for hit song “Little Talks.” But, it was surprising and exciting to see much of the audience singing and dancing along with other tracks off My Head is an Animal. “King and Lionheart” as well as “From Finner” were particularly beautiful, prompting the crowd to sing along with the repeated chorus, and get involved with the building accordion chords. Nothing is more pleasant than a room of happy music lovers singing “La la la.”
Bottom Line: Of Monsters and Men sounded amazing live. And Terminal 5 is a tough spot known to take down bands with its weird acoustics. They sound great on their album too, but in a live setting, they were truly memorable. My advice: see them before they put out another album and get even bigger. You won’t regret it.