Kurt Vile & the Violators
Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN - 5/12
Of Monsters And MenPrevious Next
support Lay Low
author TL date 19/09/12 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN
In a time were hipsters everywhere are tripping over folk artists, I wasn't surprised when Iceland sextet Of Monsters And Men became big quick on the back of their debut album "My Head Is An Animal". I was a little surprised when I recently saw them in an advertisement on MTV however. Quite a leap for a young band still on their debut record one would think. Having seen that however, I was absolutely not surprised to see their Copenhagen show sell out Lille Vega and get moved to Store Vega, which is also packed almost to the rafters here on the eve of the concert, by people of all ages squeezing the last drops of energy out of a workday to come see a band on the rise. Before they get to them though, there's the matter of the support act OMAM have brought along.
Lay Low aka. Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir
Coming straight from work myself, I miss the first two or three songs of Lay Low's half hour support set. The moniker is a cover for singer songwriter Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir - also from Iceland - who explains that normally she plays with a backing band but on this tour she makes do with just her own acoustic guitar and a trio of microphones. One carries her clear, calm vocals without effect, while the second has an effect on it that sounds like it doubles the vocals in a lower octave to create a low harmony and the third is a floor mic which allows Sigrúnardóttir to stomp a kick-drum ish sound with her feet (I don't actually see this mic, but seeing as I hear a kick drum and see no drummer, I presume there's one there, obscured by a monitor). With no additional instuments to hide behind, the deft subtlety with which she plays her guitar gives us a hint that here's a confident and experienced performer - a hint which is backed by the casual, yet simultaneously charming and authoritative manner in which the singer addresses her audience between songs, even compelling some of the closest strangers to sing along towards the end of the set. As for the actual songs, which are sung sometimes in English and sometimes in Icelandic, I make note that Sigrúnardóttir have given them simple dynamics and made them easy for newcomers to get into, by almost invariably alternating between playing a small guitar melody and then singing. It works well for first time listeners, but down the stretch of even a small set, I find myself wishing I'd heard more occasions of deviation from this approach, as it could have maybe given more twist and power to a set that, that being said, was still all together pretty solid.
As for Of Monsters And Men the headliners enter a room full of anticipation and quickly start to deliver on it with a sound that is remarkably well balanced considering the wealth of instruments brought to bear by the band, who apparently count an extra member for touring purposes. Forgive me however for not knowing exactly which instrument is hired help, because behind acoustic guitar-playing frontpeople Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar þórhallsson the remaining five members - save for the drummer - are all changing between electric guitars, bass, accordion, piano, organ and trumpet. The chords from the acoustic guitars often blend together with those from the piano, but otherwise everything seems to have a clear space in the sound, which is turned up rather loud, likely to make the concert feel big on the audience despite the relatively calm nature of the band's folksy material.
Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir
With delicious back and forth exchanges and harmonising from Hilmarsdóttir and þórhallsson we are lead through numerous songs from "My Head Is An Animal", from calm beginnings to rising climaxes where trumpet, piano and electric guitar cascade behind singalongable refrains. The lighting of the show isn't anything to write home about though, and the relatively mature work day crowd seem to mostly have left their dancing shoes at home, but the applause and cheering between songs is unmistakably a gracious one, which is not lost on the band who seem to calmly enjoy themselves as much as their audience does. Highlights from the band's album such as "Dirty Paws", "Mountain Sound", "King And Lionheart" and of course the smash hit "Little Talks" naturally go down especially well, garnering the loudest receptions of the night and we even get an exhilarating trumpet solo at one point as well.
As the show nears its closing after about an hour's worth of material however, while I must admit that I'm enjoying being in the presence of OMAM playing their set, things never really escalate past the level of "solid" or "good" into the realms of "touching" and "great". For that the band there are too many things about the performance - from the lighting over the between song banter and the scarce movement of the band to the relative lack of variety in the ways OMAM structure their songs - that are just too down to earth. Let's not mince words here, good is good and nobody should leave after OMAM's encore feeling disappointed by the performance, but in a genre that is only getting more crowded these days, I can't but to feel that these Icelanders, despite their meteoric rise to fame, still present an experience that only shines so long as it isn't compared to some of the best talent in the genre, like Ben Howard or Dry The River. If you're a fan of the folksy stuff and haven't heard those yet, I'd say check them out after your joy over OMAM's show tonight wears off. Meanwhile, I can't help but to make the comparison now, which makes for a slightly reserved:
If you scrolled down immediately looking for the grades and the link for more pictures, the latter is now in the top of my articles