Of Monsters And Men at the Orpheum

Matthew Shelter on May 31, 2015

Of Monsters And Men

Orpheum Theatre

Boston, MA

Of Monsters and Men broke into the indie folk scene in a big way in 2012, on the back of their very successful debut album, My Head Is An Animal, with its ubiquitous single “Little Talks.” After touring extensively in 2012 and 2013, the Icelandic quintet was off the road for most of last year, working on their second album, the soon-to-be-released Beneath The Skin.

The group has returned to the concert circuit this spring, stopping at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre on the front end of an extensive U.S. and international tour. They delivered a solid performance, marred only by some uneven pacing, the result of a 17-song set list that was more than half new material.

The band, whose five core members are augmented on stage by four additional touring musicians, opened the Boston show with two new songs, “Thousand Eyes” and “Human.” There is obviously nothing wrong with featuring new material, but starting a show with songs that are not just new but unreleased can put a slight damper on crowd enthusiasm. It wasn’t until the fourth song into the concert, a rousing version of “King and Lionheart” from the first album, that the audience found a proper outlet for their excitement. Two more new tracks, “Crystals” and “Human” – both of them strong rockers – kept the crowd engaged, but the tempo dipped again on “I Of The Storm” and “Black Water.” The new album is scheduled for release on June 9, and some of the problems with pacing may be alleviated once fans have a chance to become familiar with the tracks on Beneath The Skin.

Regardless, the second half of the set, which leaned on more familiar tunes, was very strong, and made up for any fits and starts in the early going. Commencing with a spirited “Mountain Sound,” and also including “Lakehouse,” “Six Weeks” and of course “Little Talks,” the back half of the show stomped and roared with more abandon, driven by drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson’s pounding back beat.

Much of the focus on the band is directed at Ragnar Þórhallsson and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, the male and female guitarists who stand center stage and trade lead vocal duties. But Hilmarsson’s drumming looms large in concert, and he was joined at times by one or even two additional percussionists, giving the bottom of the band’s sound a rich authority. Also shining was multi-instrumentalist Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir, whose horn playing stood out on one of the new songs, “Wolves Without Teeth,” as well as the crowd-pleasing “Little Talks.”

The band closed out the Boston show with a three-song encore of “Dirty Paws,” “Silhouette” and “We Sink,” the last of which is the closing track on the forthcoming album.