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Of Monsters and Men – Concert Review -Barrowlands 25th November 2016

Given that the gig was booked for the night after we’d spent the best part of a day travelling back from (humble holiday brag incoming) Japan, I was a bit worried about either not making it through to Glasgow or passing out mid gig. Thankfully our friends offered to drive through and my mosh pit orchestrating skills weren’t required given that the Icelandic indie folk pop Of Monsters and Men is very much more suited to a sway along at the back type of vibe. Which is exactly where we made a beeline for upon arrival at a packed Barrowlands, within striking distance of the bar, naturally Back of the Crowd. The support act, a Norwegian indie pop band very in keeping with the main act, Highasakite. Well, not literally but they did finish of a uplifting trio of songs, and I’d recommend giving them a listen.
Of Monsters and Men then assembled: nine of them in total including various backstage percussion, all colour coordinated in black, with the irrepressibly rock and roll drummer standing out in particular given he looked like he moonlights as an extra in Game of Thrones or Vikings. I wistfully imagined that his name might be something fitting such as Ragnar. It turns out his name is Arnar, whilst the lead singer, a short rotund man donned in a baseball cap, happens to be called Ragnar Þórhallsson. Can’t win them all.

This tour was promoting their second album, Beneath the Skin, a decent hiatus following 2011’s My Head is an Animal. There was an eerie vibe in the barrowlands half light as they opened: brass came out of the darkness, before the drums began to build into their first number Thousand Eyes. Another new song Empire followed, before Arnar started orchestrating the crowd for King and Lionheart. This was followed by Black Water with the double drum combination given it a very tribal feel. Fan favourite Mountain Sound then allowed for a bit of a “hold your horses now” crowd sing along. Crystals was probably the highlight of the songs from their new album, although a few of the lower key songs in the middle of the set felt like they just merged into one. Though just when it seemed that new song Hunger was beginning to drag its heels it awakened into a powerful crescendo of trumpets, lights and drums, signalling a move towards the finale of Lakehouse, Six Weeks and Little Talks.

The highlight for me was unsurprisingly their biggest song Little Talks. I think the reason why this song is so memorable is the fact that both the lead singer, Nanna and Ragnar, play off each other so well, finishing each other sentences. I’d like it if more of their songs were like this with both female and male vocals interchanging although it’s probably bit more time consuming to write these songs, and maybe it would be a bit clichéd if they did. It also had a killer trumpet solo.

The lead switched to keyboard for the encore of Organs, Dirty Paws, and We Sink. The opportunity to hear tweaked versions of the songs live was certainly worth it. Whilst I have for preference for the upbeat over the introspective, I think the magic is in the variety in composition of the songs, and it will be interesting to see what their third album holds when it comes.

Setlist:

Thousand Eyes

Empire

King and Lionheart

Black Water

Mountain Sound

Winter Sound

Slow Life

Human

I of the Storm

Backyard

Crystals

Hunger

Wolves Without Teeth

Lakehouse

Little Talks

Six Weeks

Encore:

Organs

Dirty Paws

We Sink