Gig Reviews

Review: Of Monsters And Men – Palais Theatre, Melbourne, 03/08/13

The land Of Monsters and Men call home is one of vast, scenic plains, sweeping ranges of edificial mountains, with names like “Eyjafjallajökull”. There are quaint, pastoral acreages, and star-splattered skies awash with the colours of aurora borealis reflected in crystalline bodies of water so pure they mirror the sky sheet as though they were some sort of beautiful, variegated pool of respite from the dank permafrost that surrounds them.

It’s because of this that you can quickly interpret the band’s appreciation and understanding of aesthetics. Iceland is also cold as balls, placed as it is at the confluence of the notoriously cold (and dark) North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. So it’s also easy to explicate the band’s obsession with both light and warmth, whatever their sources happen to be, whether the sun, a simple oil lamp or the love of another human being.

Keeping this in mind, the stage was fittingly furnished. Great, white baubles were suspended above the stage, swaying amongst fairy lights, and a giant, silvery sheet hung in front of the stage. The shadows of the band members were cast on to the sheet as they assembled, surrounded by blue light. Sound began to swell and a song came into being on the stage, Dirty Paws. The sheet dropped and the crowd reacted in joy and applause. The six members of the band made for a full and rich sound akin to a similarly marching band-sized outfit like Arcade Fire.

“This is an unreleased track, it’s about an old neighbour of mine,” explained singer and guitarist Ragnar ‘Raggi’ Þórhallsson. There was a short delay while the group faced each other with smiles. They struck you as more of a troupe, than a band. That is of course unless you mean “band” as in the kind that merry gypsies travel about in. An unreleased song, Beneath My Bed, was a straightforward acoustic folk song with a sweet melody and sparse instrumentation, received warmly by the crowd.

The band played through From Finner and Slow and Steady. Singers Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Þórhallsson harmonised wonderfully and the rest of the band provided musical backdrops that, though driven by the indie rock lifeblood of drums, guitar and bass, acted more as sonic landscapes. The songs of Of Monsters and Men have such a once-upon-a-time-ness to them that each song played out on stage like a vignette. We saw the settings and characters of Mountain Sound, Your Bones and Love Love Love appear and disappear before our eyes.

Towards the end of set-closer Yellow Light, snow rained down on the audience in the form of tiny orbs of white foam. The stage lights moved through shades of red, blue and purple, and fairy lights created a makeshift night sky above the stage, floating paper orbs glowing like multiple moons. There was an immense warmth in the Palais Theatre, sparked by the band on stage.

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