Icelandic six-piece Of Monsters and Men have taken the world a bit by storm. Their first EP, Into the Woods, was released in 2010, and their first and only full-length album, My Head is An Animal, came out in 2011. Animal has since appeared on charts in the U.S. and in Europe, and the band’s current world tour for the album includes many sold-out shows (the two Toronto dates sold out in minutes!). Their folk-pop anthems have drawn comparisons to bands such as Arcade Fire, the Cardigans, and the Magnetic Zeros.
After Icelandic singer-pianist Sóley finished her opening set, Of Monsters and Men’s seven band members (trumpeter Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir joined the band for the 2012 tour) took the stage. They were met with raucous cheering as the first notes of the debut track from Animals, “Dirty Paws,” began, and crowd participation began early, as people belted out the chorus of “la la laaaaaaaaa” with vocalists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson. Audience participation was encouraged (probably unnecessarily) throughout the night — Nanna introduced the third song, “Slow and Steady,” with the entertaining dialogue, “this song requires you to have hands” (for clapping). She introduced the single “Mountain Sound” by encouraging the women and men of the audience to sing the call-and-answer chorus: the women would sing with Nanna (“Hold your horses now…”) and the men with Ragnar (“We sleep until the sun goes down!”). The drummer, Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, was enthusiastic throughout the whole show, standing up and motioning when to clap along.
Of Monsters and Men don’t stray far from their album style in their live show, which isn’t a bad thing when your album sounds like it’s meant to be performed live. The energy captured on the album by the two vocalists singing about beasts, forests and howling ghosts, combined with the sounds of accordions, glockenspiels, foot stomps, and catchy hooks with many shouts of “HEY!” translated perfectly to a concert setting. That said, the few surprises were welcome: the band played a cover of “Skeletons” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; Ragnar spoke his few words of the night by dedicating “Your Bones” to his mother for her birthday; and “Lakehouse” lasted a long time — the last few “la la la”s were drawn out to the audience’s delight.
Of Monsters and Men played every song in their repertoire, fittingly ending the three-song encore with the final track on the album, “Yellow Light.” They do a nice job with the amount of music they have, and it’ll be interesting to see where they are a year from now.