Of Monsters and Men at First Avenue, 12/19/12

Of Monsters and Men at First Avenue, 12/19/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Of Monsters and Men
With Elle King
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Having your songs played ad nauseum on the radio can either expand your audience, or it can make you seem like a sell-out. Icelandic indie-folk band Of Monsters and Men fall into the former category, coming off as genuine artists that are still in the business for the music. For the second night of two sold-out shows at First Avenue, the band held court and delighted Minneapolis with an enthralling evening of music.

Shooting to stardom on just one album, the band has been touring non-stop since before the release of their album My Head is an Animal. With such a small handful of songs to play, Of Monsters was still able to prove their talent in the short set. The band opened with "Dirty Paws," a piece that convenes quietly and builds into a full band, with strong harmonies from the whole band. One of the most interesting things about the band is how tight they are with their vocals. While co lead singers Nanna and Raggi trade off vocals, the band is always on with the backup vocals -- it's almost like a choir.

Of Monsters and Men at First Avenue, 12/19/12
Of Monsters and Men at First Avenue, 12/19/12
Photos by Tony Nelson

As the band has toured constantly, and perhaps it was because it was the last evening of their trek before flying home to Iceland, they have become more comfortable in their performing skins, moving around onstage and getting the audience excited. While a lot of their songs sound similar, each one is individually beautiful. "Mountain Sound" has Nanna and Raggi trading off vocals like a tag team, opening with Raggi's bright, clear voice, and closing with Nanna's child-like dreamy one. Their lyrics often are merely about random happenings -- the band talks a lot of homes and leaving them as in "From Finner," "Your Bones," and "Slow and Steady" -- set to catchy instrumentation, brings them to another level.

With so many band members, the energy is contagious, making it seem like one big party. The crowd caught this and clapped and sang along to the band's second single "King and Lionheart," the perfect follow up to their first single "Little Talks," which the band surprisingly did not save for their encore. "Six Weeks" closed out the regular set at 9:05 pm, which is very early for a club show, but it's what needs to happen at an all ages show. The piece offered the classic OMAM, slow build and epic ending and was the perfect segue into the encore that opened with "Sloom."

As a surprise, the group slipped in their rendition of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Skeleton." The cover fits in perfectly to their set with its meandering lyrics, much like an Of Monsters song. For their last and final song of the tour, the band closed with the illustrious and dreamy "Yellow Light." While it may not have been written with the same intention, the lyrics of "From Finner" of "We are far from home, but we're so happy" best epitomizes the band that is in its element and at the beginning of a long career.

Critics bias: I've listened to the band's album quite a bit and was impressed that they were able to deliver a solid, compact performance built around such a big sound.

The crowd: Many a Cities 97 listener.

Overheard in the crowd: "It's like a full body dry heave set to music." in reference to Seinfeld's Elaine Benes when someone spotted a drunk woman dancing.

Random notebook dump: You know those songs where you mistake the lyrics, Of Monsters and Men songs are the quintessential pieces for mistaken lyrics.


Dirty Paws
From Finner
Slow and Steady
Mountain Sound
Numb Bears
Your Bones
Love Love Love
King and Lionheart
Little Talks
Six Weeks

Beneath My Bed
Yellow Light

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