Of Monsters and Men first came onto the pop/indie/folk scene in 2011 with their hit single ‘Little Talks’, one of the most up-tempo songs about depression ever written. Since then they have produced three albums, all of which focus on natural imagery and emotional introspection. Touring now for their third album, Fever Dream, they’ve come to Birmingham and given me the chance to finally see them at their apex, performing for eager fans and singing about the nuances of the human condition.
The gig’s location is Birmingham’s O2 academy which bathes its audience in blue. The lighting and sound are impeccable throughout with pillars of light shining throughout the band’s hour and a quarter set. It’s also a spacious enough venue on the ground and balcony above. It’s a varied sober crowd save for one bellowing man, though thankfully he loves the band, which adds to the somewhat cosy feel of the proceedings rather than detracts from it.
Before we get to the main attraction though, it’s important not to forget the support band Black Honey because the promotional material certainly did. A quartet hailing from Brighton and with a single LP under their belt, Black Honey is a band most of the audience will have never heard of but hopefully will be bopping to on the ride home. In other words, they’re a damn solid opening act.
The gigs’s location in Birmingham’s O2 academy which bathes its audience in blue
They play a mixture of surfer rock and indie-pop which works to rouse the audience, starting with their tight opener: ‘I Only Hurt the Ones I Love’. Memorable follow-up Coleen which plays like a dreamy surfer-rock version of ‘Jolene’, but also serves as an anthem for underestimated women everywhere. The final song with a disco vibe is ‘Midnight’ which is easily the highlight. It’s a short but fun, light but playful opening set and with luck, this band will go further.
After half an hour though the lights go down for Of Monsters and Men who begin promptly with ‘Alligator‘, the lead single off their first album which gets the audience pumped and clapping along for a range of material. Nearly half the songs are off the new album with hits including ‘Wild Roses and Wars’, a song to dance to if you’re bad at dancing. For fans of ‘Beneath the Skin’, which is probably their most emotionally complex album and my personal favorite, there’s far less on offer, though the singles Crystals and Empire make their way in, as well as a very percussive ‘I of the Storm’, which is probably the only time the drums overwhelm the rest of the song.
There’s also a number of songs their first album on display which makes for the most warmly welcomed material. Back to back, we have the endearing ‘King and Lionheart’ and the energetic ‘Mountain Sound’ and of course, the biggest hit of the night is still ‘Little Talks’ which receives a rapturous cheer and response from the crowd later in the night. Once again, the band’s more percussive and electric take for the live performances works to their advantage. Even songs which aren’t as impressive on their studio albums benefit from the live performance: Lakehouse and Sleepwalker work so much better live with the audience’s support, many fans singing along to every word.
The audience is pumped and clapping along
The final three songs on paper make for a bit of an odd combination as they’re all slow in tempo and quite calm. But while the band doesn’t end with a bang it still manages to make an impact. ‘Waiting for the Snow’ works as a vocal showcase while ‘Dirty Paws’ and ‘Yellow Light’, have the crowd hanging on every note. The show ends on a beautifully calm, communal note.
Of Monsters and Men is one of those bands which has been with me for years, all through my undergraduate as background music that has shaped a great deal of who I am and what I write. It was a privilege to see them live, and if you ever get the chance take it, it’ll be one hell of a fever dream.