On October 16, Of Monsters and Men performed at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. The Icelandic band’s principle members include lead singer Nanna Brydís Hilmarsdóttir, Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson on guitar and vocals, Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson on drums, and Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir on accordion, percussion, and trumpet.
The lackluster opening act was Amason, a retro Swedish pop band. Their cover of Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” while unusual, was engaging. Lead singer Amanda Bergman’s voice brought to mind post-10,000 Maniacs Natalie Merchant. However, Bergman’s irritated attitude was distracting. The band’s monochromatic clothing was consistent with their one-dimensional sound.
Amason also performed their hit “Went To War” with Petter Winnberg, lead guitarist, on vocals. His voice, in contrast to Bergman’s, was emotive, authentic, and breathed new life into the band’s tame sound.
The delayed entrance of the main act caused palpable anticipation among the crowd, which soon grew agitated. Of Monsters and Men finally took the stage and seized the audience’s attention with their song “Thousand Eyes.” Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir cast a spell over the ampitheatre with her bewitching voice, reinforced by the tribal, thundering drum beat.
A series of classic upbeat alternative rock anthems came next, including “Empire,” “King and Lionheart,” “Black Water,” and “Mountain Sound.”
“Human” escalated to a wild animal fervor then descended to a calculated softness, which was then maintained in “Slow and Steady.” The unique beauty of this tune was followed by similar songs “I of the Storm” and “Backyard.”
The band then reverted to the classicity of their debut album, *My Head is an Animal. *“Lakehouse,” normally acoustic, was performed with electric guitar, giving it more stadium power. Crowd favorite “Little Talks” displayed Gunnarsdóttir’s extraordinary talent on the trumpet.
To close the show, Of Monsters and Men played slow, poignant “Organs.” Lights from the stage cast a purple glow over the crowd, and thousands of phone flashlights further illuminated the ampitheatre.
The intricately layered nature of “Organs” and other songs performed that night truly showcased the spirit of the band. Their live sound, while similar to that produced in their studio recordings, had more texture with the nine-piece band. Of Monsters and Men was thus able to maintain a rich, dramatic sound throughout the night.