Popularity of bands today isn’t unlike lighting a cigarette in the strong Chicago wind. The flame struggles to muster enough strength to light the cigarette, gives a hopeful effort but eventually flickers out. Out. Of Monsters and Men, though, are more similar to a roaring bonfire—beginning with a few sparks and eventually developing into a full-force inferno. With a sold-out show at Chicago’s Park West March 30, 2012, the Icelandic seven-piece burned brilliantly and brightly.
The night began with the foot stomping acoustic blues of Lay Low. With her thick European accent and frank anecdotes, she enchanted the audience from the first note. She provided honest accounts of songs’ meanings and inceptions, transforming the vast Park West into an intimate club. Lay Low showed prowess with her pedal board as she laced together riffs worthy of Cat Power and her smoky and somehow pure voice and served as a perfect opener for just-across-the-pond OMAM.
The Icelandic six-piece was overtaken with enthusiastic applause and cheers as they took their places on stage. The strong first notes of “Dirty Paws” threw the audience back with full force and the stage was lit a bright golden yellow from rope lights draped across the stage. The gentle introduction of “Dirty Paws” showed the band’s expertise in beginning with spare acoustic styling and building into a full-blown musical assault. The vocal harmonies between the two lead vocalists perfectly complimented each other. Clad in a denim shirt and Aztec-printed sweater lead vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir looked more like a hipster farmer than the front woman of one of the indie’s most popular chart toppers.
Whimsical instruments like accordion and joyful trumpet refrains infused each song with the childish joy that makes OMAM so appealing.
They are free, optimistic, unencumbered—they are the free spirited ragamuffins of today’s music scene. With wailing harmonies from lead vocalists Nanna and Ragnar, it wasn’t difficult to convey the whimsy and joy of their music.
The unreleased track “Beneath My Bed” took the audience by storm with a booming percussion intro, metallic cymbals crushing eardrums and trembling knees. The song followed the usual formula of up-tempo, joyful ballads. The six-piece demonstrated their immense gratitude when one-sixth of the Icelandic powerhouse gave monster head key chains hand-knit by his mother to two lucky audience members.
Vocalist Ragnar þórhallsson’s impressive vocal chops were best showcased by “Your Bones.” His powerful voice oscillated up and down smooth slurs without fail and filled the expansive Park West without any problem. The crowd erupted in hysteria at the first sign of the trumpet intro to “Little Talks” that resulted in a full-fledged sing along and was followed by single “Six Weeks.” The encore included a cover of The Cure’s “Close To Me” that rivals the original.
Bidding goodbye to the pleading crowd, begging for one last song, a final fix before the night would inevitably end, the band waved and promised to return to the Windy City. If the frenzied screams and chants of approval demanded one thing, it was that OMAM make good on that promise. And fast.
Of Monsters and Men at Park West on March 30, 2012 setlist
- “Dirty Paws”
- “From Finner”
- “Beneath My Bed”
- “Mountain Song”
- “King And Lionheart”
- “Love Love Love”
- “Your Bones”
- “Little Talks”
- “Six Weeks”
- “Close to Me (The Cure cover)”
- “Lake House”