Live Zone

Of Monsters and Men/Black Honey, Rock City Nottingham, 2nd November 2019

 

 

It’s been six years since Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men called in to Nottingham…

That was February 2013 when Platinum-selling debut album, “My Head is An Animal” had been out just a year and had peaked at # 3 in the UK chart.

But for accuracy, it was two years old if you know it first came out in Iceland before worldwide release.

Back then, they played at this same venue with a sold-out show. They last toured the UK in 2015, with seven dates plus Dublin, but no Nottingham show that time.  They were back in 2016 to appear at the Glastonbury festival.

But tonight, the quintet proved they still have the following to see the sold-out signs go up again at Rock City, 2,000 tickets sold for the final night of their seven-date UK tour, (plus a Dublin show).

This latest tour is to promote latest album, “Fever Dream”, which dropped back in July and made the UK Top 20, the follow-up to 2015’s “Beneath The Skin”, # 10 in the UK album chart.

Halloween decorations still up as you enter the venue, and a predominantly young crowd filled at least two thirds of the place by the time support act Black Honey rocked up. Not the first time Brighton-based Black Honey have supported major headliners, previously joining Catfish and the Bottlemen on tour.

Izzy B. Phillips of Black Honey

Black Honey’s singer and guitarist Izzy B. Phillips, guitarist Chris Ostler, bassist Tommy Taylor and drummer Tom Dewhurst did a sterling job at warming up the crowd, but for me, their indie rock material perhaps wasn’t a perfect fit with the indie folk/pop music offered by the headliners.

But the band grew on the audience, and they were quite into it by the final two songs of the half hour set. But Of Monsters and Men had their fans in the palm of their hands from the off, with a sparkling 90-minute set which delivered tracks from all three of their studio albums (they released a live album in 2013).

The original line-up, minus one member who left in 2012, tonight lead singer and guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, singer and guitarist Ragnar Þórhallsson, lead guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson, had a 2,000 strong team of percussionists backing them up. Vigorously clapping along for pretty much every song they played.

Best response was reserved for the likes of “Mountain Sound”, “Wild Roses”, “Wars”, “Crystals” and “Lakehouse”, the latter song where Nanna popped down to the pit and interacted with the fans at the front of the safety barrier.

As far as the band’s loyal fans are concerned, a mandatory track for any OMAM concert, is the track that rocketed them to international success back in 2011, their debut single, “Little Talks”.

That breakthrough single went quintuple-platinum and notched up more than one billion streams on Spotify. The doors to global success were opened by that storming single, and they soon appeared on official soundtracks for “The Hunger Games”, “The Walking Dead, “Beat Bugs” and many more.

Although a long time has passed since its release, every last person in the venue remembered the lyrics word for word tonight, which resulted in a humongous sing-along that lasted the duration of the song. The band looked delighted at such an response to one of their their oldest songs.

The last one of the main set, “Six Weeks”, wasn’t the end of proceedings though, and after a brief exit, they returned for the three-song encore: “Under A Dome”, “Dirty Paws” and “Yellow Light”.

Each song was pretty much an exact version of the studio recordings. Nanna’s and Ragnar’s voices beautifully blending together, and perfect chemistry between all five of these guys.

No drawn out solos or any one player/instrument hogging the spotlight. This is very much a unit. An ensemble sound. But, the sound engineers would have to be on their toes to ensure a perfect balance in the mix, especially for the vocal harmonies. Tonight, they did a great job.

Having said no one member hogged the spotlight, I’ll perhaps correct myself a tad, with tongue in cheek, to tell you that Nanna switched between various instruments during the gig; from electric to acoustic guitar, and from keyboard to drums – joining the drummer for “Stuck In Gravity” and “Six Weeks”. Impressive.

When the band linked arms and took their bows at the front of the stage to deafening roars of approval, their beaming smiles and sparkling eyes told a story. They enjoyed this gig as much as we all did. Maybe even more.

After nearly 10 years of global touring (they formed in 2009 around Nanna’s solo project for a talent contest in Iceland the following year) and selling truck loads of records, you can tell this really is a labour of love for these guys, and about as far removed from work as you can get.

Many bands who have been doing their thing for longer than 15 minutes of fame, often come across as just going through the motions for the good of their bank balance.

Often cramming the hits into shortened medleys, and looking like they cannot wait to get off that stage at the end of a gig.

I suspect that all five members in Of Monsters And Men tick off the seconds until every gig, and would probably have played all night if they could. Their energy levels more like a first night of a tour rather than the last night of this UK leg. Job satisfaction writ large?

There are 2,000 people in Nottingham who’d have gladly given up their night’s sleep if they had.

 

Words and photos: Andrea Bottino

 

 


 

Set list:

  • “Alligator”
  • “Empire”
  • “Ahay”
  • “King and Lionheart”
  • “Mountain Sound”
  • “Sleepwalker”
  • “Human”
  • “WIld Roses”
  • “Stuck In Gravity”
  • “I of the Storm”
  • “Wars”
  • “Crystals”
  • “Lakehouse”
  • “Little Talks”
  • “Six Weeks”

Encore:

  • “Under A Dome”
  • “Dirty Paws”
  • “Yellow Light”

 

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