Of Monsters and Men: Live at The Empire

On Wednesday a friend and I caught Of Monsters and Men, the Icelandic indie-folk rock band, at the 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, after I got my hands on some last-minute tickets. The evening was rather entertaining and if you’ve heard their music or are a fan, you know how lost you can get in it.

The opening act – a one man band called Mugison was quite… “interesting”. He started out by coming onto stage, admitting that he was a bit pissed (hilarious!) and played his first three songs on a self-crafted instrument that looked a bit like something an Engineering/Electronics student might construct for a project. The sound was definitely very sci-fi. Though he had a rather soulful and powerful voice, I have to say that this part of his set felt very self-indulgent. The music at times was harsh and didn’t even seem to go with the lyrics; it was almost like random sounds thrown together – it sort of reminded me of Ross playing his synth on Friends. The second half of his set was dramatically better. He picked up a guitar and played a few more songs. But unfortunately the set was still rather unfulfilling. He definitely has talent. And at times I felt that if he had a few more members for his band his sings would sound great. But I suppose that’s a personal artistic choice, and I respect that. Will say this though, he is a pretty funny guy – he seemed to really enjoy himself up there and not take himself too seriously.

The downside of this support act, entertaining though it may have been as far as my friend and I were taking the piss throughout his set, was that the crowd wasn’t really as fired up as it should have been when the main act came on – so it took a few songs before people really started feeling the music and jumping a bit – but we definitely got there. Of Monsters and Men has an amazing sound and their use of so many instruments makes them sound really big and powerful. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting them to sound as big live. It’s easy to get that feel in a studio but to do it live – wow. It helps of course that they have 7 people up on stage. The contrast between the range of their two co lead singers –  the angelic notes of  Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and the mellow accompaniments of Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson – makes such a beautiful and sometimes spine-chillingly touching combination. By the time “Mountain Sound” rolled around, about half-way through their set, I was welling up with excitement. The band got most if its fame I’d say from the massive popularity of their single – “Little Talks”, which has a massive brass element which I think gives it some real power – but “Mountain Sound” and “King and Lionheart” are actually two of my favorite tracks.

If you haven’t already checked out this band, you absolutely must! – Of Monsters and Men


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