For a relatively small country...just 321,000 or so inhabitants apparently...Iceland’s been fairly influential, musically speaking at least (not so hot at the financial stuff but we’ll let that lie eh?), producing The Sugarcubes, Bjork, Sigur Rós and now the chart gobbling Of Monsters and Men. It’s been an impressive couple of years since the band formed back in 2010 with the last 12 months alone netting them a top 10 album (Into The Woods) and single (Little Talks) pretty much everywhere on planet earth.
First up tonight though two sets...yep...count ‘em...from fellow Icelander Mugison kicking off with his alter ego Monkey Man. I think that's what he said anyway, the permafrost from the frankly Icelandic weather outside still hadn't melted by this point. Sat hunched over some kind of electronic gizmo he created a kind of Walter/Wendy Carlos soundtrack for a magical land inhabited by fairies, pixies and hobgoblins. At least that’s what it sounded like. Sort of. He disappeared offstage for a moment or two then re-emerged to deliver an impressive set of Icelandic blues...pretty much the same as other sorts of blues but just a bit colder. A one man Beck meets Black Keys meets Bonnie Prince Billy. This rather magical track is nothing like what he played tonight but he seems gloriously oblivious to genres so what the hell...
“La la la la la li la la la”...Of Monsters and Men do love a good sing-a-long, so much so that pretty much every song contains at least one section for the audience to “La la la” along to. It’s all part of their charm though. An Of Monsters and Men gig is a truly communal thing and, on top of the “La la la” bits, the band repeatedly whipped tonight’s packed Institute audience into a clap along frenzy.
Audience participation aside they more than justified the love, kicking off with the distinctly Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-ish Dirty Paws (with added “La la las” obviously). In Mountain Sound (“Hold your horses now”) and Little Talks (bonus points for the glorious trumpet solo this evening) the band’s got a brace of festival slaying hits, practically genetically engineered to get a crowd going and tonight both tracks took a healthy number of people dangerously close to ecstasy. It's music for ripping your clothes off and running naked through a forest to. Not recommended in this weather...bits are liable to drop off...but wait until the Summer...trust me...this stuff's the perfect soundtrack.
It’s the interplay between the Bjork haunted vocals of Nanna (previously a solo artist who apparently put the band together) and Ragnar (who sounds like a chilled Maverick Sabre) that’s the magic ingredient though, with a particularly stirring King and Lionheart standing out as one of the tracks of the night. If they're not already a couple they really should get it onnnnnnnnnnnnn. La la la la lovely stuff.