Review: Of Monsters and Men @ Webster Hall

11Apr12

Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men made two stops in NYC last week, playing a sold-out show at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday and at Webster Hall on Friday. I got to see them at Webster Hall—after initially not being quick enough to snag a ticket, I got one when the venue was changed from Bowery Ballroom to Webster Hall. This venue change ended up being a bit of a problem, as I know that some people went to Bowery first and then had to make the trek to Webster Hall when they figured out that Of Monsters and Men were not playing where they were. Normally this would not be a big deal, but this particular concert actually started on time (gasp) a little after 9 p.m. and it was fairly short since they have only released one album.  So, I think they whole thing was said and done in an hour and fifteen minutes or so. So if you were late, you sort of missed out.

It was good to hear the band play live. It’s very much like their album, with one song flowing into the next. The songs all have a similar sound with slow build ups, occasional trumpet appearances and group shouts.  The band is made up two co-singer/guitarists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson, as well as guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, piano/accordion player Árni Guðjónsson, and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson. It was the drummer’s birthday, and in honor of the occasion the band gave him a crown to wear and also led the room in a Happy Birthday song.

There have been lots of comparisons made to other bands, like Arcade Fire and Mumford and Sons, but I wasn’t really getting that.  There are no banjos in sight, and the male lead singer’s voice reminded me more of Colin Meloy of The Decemberists than anything else.  Maybe they sound a little like Canadian band Stars? That might be due to the back and forth of the male/female lead vocals. “Little Talks” is the song that’s getting them attention, and it’s still my favorite–with it’s upbeat, rousing sound and its “hey”-filled lyrics. I can see this band being fun to see at outdoor festivals. Actually, at this point that’s probably the best place for them. They don’t really have the set list to headline yet, but clearly they are able to attract a crowd, so I guess they are just going with it.  But for the record, I think it was the earliest concert ending time that I’ve ever experienced.

The band’s claim to fame is that they won an annual battle of the bands competition in Iceland in 2010, joining past winners Andlát, Búdrýgindi, Dáðadrengir, Mammút, Jakobínarína, The Foreign Monkeys, Shogun, Agent Fresco, and Bróðir Svartúlfs. What, you haven’t heard of these bands? Well, I guess Of Monsters and Men are doing something right then to garner all this worldwide attention. Their name choice doesn’t hurt either. Now, if only I can stop accidentally referring to them as Monsters of Folk…

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