Of Monsters and Men, O2 Academy Glasgow, Thu 31 Oct
- Megan Forsyth
- 1 November 2019
The Icelandic folk/pop darlings get festive on Halloween night and showcase their new synth sound
It's Halloween night, and after a somewhat spooky set by Brighton band Black Honey, Of Monsters and Men take the stage at Glasgow's O2 Academy decked out in full costumes. Lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir is almost unrecognisable in clownish face paint, with fake blood covering her flowy white dress and the face of band co-leader Ragnar Þórhallsson. There's also an angel on keyboards and a ghostly sailor playing guitar. 'We dress like this every night,' the soft-spoken Nanna jokes.
Nanna has said that continuing to write songs on the acoustic guitar 'brought out things in [her] that were predictable' and so the band started experimenting with new sounds and synths for their third album, Fever Dream. The result is a polished, poppy sound much more reminiscent of American radio pop/rock than the charming folk songs on the Icelandic band's 2012 debut album My Head is An Animal. Now, aside from the distinct voices of Nanna and Ragnar, Of Monsters and Men hardly sounds like the same band in 2019.
They kick things off with Fever Dream's catchy lead single 'Alligator' and quickly follow it up with 'Empire' from 2015's Beneath the Skin. It's one of only three tracks from the band's sophomore release included in the set list, favouring new material and fan favourite singalong songs from their debut throughout the night. Ethereal new songs like 'Ahay', 'Sleepwalker' and 'Stuck In Gravity' showcase the perfect vocal pairing of Nanna and Ragnar, but few in the crowd sing along to these or seem particularly engaged.
The momentum picks up later in the set when the band plays 'Lakehouse' and follows it up with the joyous hit 'Little Talks', which features an impressive ghostly sailor guitar solo and gets the biggest singalong of the night. For the encore, Nanna sits at the front of the stage to sing the gorgeous piano ballad 'Waiting for the Snow'. The band knows what the fans really want though, and close with two old favourites, 'Dirty Paws' and 'Yellow Light', complete with yellow lights illuminating the venue.
It's an enjoyable performance, and Of Monsters and Men do a fine job balancing between their new material and old favourites, but it's clear that the band's newfound pop/rock direction on Fever Dream just isn't clicking with their audience the way that they hoped it would.
Of Monsters and Men, Manchester Academy 2, Fri 1 Nov; Rock City, Nottingham, Sat 2 Nov.