Crouching on the benches at the back of the Scala and twisting into an awkward position in order to balance isn’t necessarily the best way to see Of Monsters and Men, but the venue is so packed that people resort to anything they can to catch a glimpse of the Icelandic band.
Already making history in the US – debut album ‘My Head Is an Animal’ debuted at number six on the Billboard chart, which was the best chart performance for an Icelandic artist in musical history – Of Monsters and Men have brought their unique brand of foot-stomping folk rock to London and, more specifically, to the Scala.
Bear’s Den are the first on tonight and sadly leave the room a little flat; the songs are big enough but there’s some kind of spark missing which results in a lack of energy from the crowd. Compare this to when Of Monsters and Men take the stage, and the difference is palpable.
There’s something fantastical about Of Monsters and Men – maybe it’s the Icelandic aspect or maybe something else entirely – the fairy lights strewn about the stage add to this, giving a Santa’s grotto atmosphere. The songs are filled with whimsical tales of children’s monsters and Tolkien-esque landscapes. Think Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ turned to song with a dash of Mumford & Sons thrown in and you're getting close.
It doesn’t take long for the energy in the room to rise. Opening song ‘From Finner’ ramps this up, joyful and exuberant as the audience start singing along almost immediately. However, it’s ‘Little Talks’ that gets the best reception – forget about a spark, because this song catches alight and burns brightly for the entire time.
There are a lot of ‘la la la’s and ‘hey!’s, which with any other band could run the risk of seeming like an easy way to get crowd participation. Of Monsters and Men just seem so earnest, though – singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir tells a story at one point; “I’ve counted the crowd and there’s just as many of you as there were doing the group vocals on this next song,” she says before adding, endearingly, “Okay, not really. I just thought it would be nice.”
Of Monsters and Men are doing the festival circuit, hitting up Latitude first of all, and they’ll do well in the outdoor setting. The songs need wild abandon and cavorting over the grass - it'll be time to see the festival-goers letting their inner monsters out.