October 11, 2015
The stars seemed to bow out of the night’s sky over Charlotte’s Uptown Amphitheater Thursday night, making room for Icelandic superstars Of Monsters and Men. With autumn almost in the air as the sun hid from the night, the band opened with “Thousand Eyes” from their new album “Beneath the Skin.” A crowded venue filled with people born in the 80’s and early 90’s held cup of draught beer and stared at the stage. In the lawn, patterned blankets and homemade quilts patched together a kind of maze littered with resting couples gazing up at the city’s skyline. It could have been a summer night. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s voice seems to float on top of the air: The sound of whispered haunting brilliance. The faces in front of her were frozen in the sound, standing still as if they were statues. The harmonies that Nanna and Ragnar Þórhallsson create with their signature sound captivated their fans.
Addressing the crowd, pointing out the flag of Iceland held up by jumping hands, Nanna applauded Charlotte admitting that their homeland flag is on the stage at all their shows. “King and Lionheart,” a popular single from their debut album “My Head is an Animal,” broke the still bodies into small dance groups. People twirled in circles and smiled as if summer wasn’t over quite yet. Carefree looks were exchanged between strangers as the music carried the mood to a higher level. Geometric triangles set a backdrop behind the band lit with white lights that ran up the lines creating a feeling of movement. Smoke and purple lights filled the stage as figures of the bandmates were painted clearly in shadows on the exposed brick of the building next to the stage. An all too familiar intro to “Mountain Sound” encouraged the crowd to get together for a sing along. Nearly every ticket holder was standing with their phones up and recording.
The whole city with its moving parts was just beyond the boundaries of the amphitheater as Of Monsters and Men played but no one standing in the crowd would have known. It was as if they were playing in a small bar or someone’s backyard: Singularly and to all of us. Shows that leave you feeling with a intimate vibe like that this show did are rare in such a large space. The band played a handful of tunes from the new album, yet the crowd seemed less engaged but still entertained. Then the horns rang out the notes to “Little Talks,” arguably their most popular track from “My Head is an Animal.” Insouciantly dancing, clapping in and out of sync while singing the words, the crowd finally seemed to be getting what they came for. Lights shone through black framed glasses of skinny jean wearing twenty-something guys holding hands with college girls.
Finishing the set with “6 Weeks,” no one believed it was over. Of course, it wasn’t. The encore was short but satisfying, with the band returning for three more songs. “We Sink” was dedicated to the people in the back and closed out the set.
Live music isn’t always what you might expect when anticipating a show. Of Monsters and Men didn’t exactly put on a high energy show, but for the people of Charlotte on a Thursday night, it was everything it needed to be. Maybe you held someone’s hand and swayed with a beer in your hand thinking about the last moments of summer that had already passed. Perhaps you stood in the lawn missing someone and hoping the band would play “Your Bones.” You might have been a member of one of the few dancing circles. Whatever the show did for you, it was everything a Queen City night could hope for.