Iceland let Oakland borrow its prized band for one night Sept. 24 — and the result was showstopping. Of Monsters and Men, hailing all the way from Reykjavík, swung by Oakland’s Fox Theater on its “Fever Dream” tour in support of its latest, similarly titled album.
Fans in the audience were shoulder to shoulder in anticipation of the indie folk icons. Opening with the biggest hit of the FEVER DREAM record so far, “Alligator,” the band brought arena energy to the antiquated theater setting. Starting with a song off of FEVER DREAM was a good way to introduce its fresh sound, showing a new side of the band that longtime fans may not be as familiar with.
But concertgoers also received what they were ultimately there for: The original soundtrack to fantasies of skipping through meadows and sifting through forests. Performances of “King and Lionheart,” “Six Weeks” and “Little Talks” brought all the warm feelings of yesteryears and campfire singalongs.
Lead singer and guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir was clad in brilliantly blinding pants that matched the silver of her guitar, strolling around the stage like a human disco ball. The backdrop behind her was a giant reproduction of the FEVER DREAM album cover — the piercing red eye looked back at the crowded venue, filled to the brim with adoring fans sporting their fluffiest beards and hipster glasses.
When the group began the chords to “Mountain Sound,” the audience cheered as if the song was something of legends. Without the band members needing to say the name of the tune for people to know what was coming, the lyrics poured out from every corner of the room.
There were notable differences between the performances of songs from past and present albums. During the performance of “Sleepwalker,” a newer release, the style switch could be felt by the audience. While the newer songs were received just as well as older tracks, there was a certain magic that came with songs performed off of the group’s 2012 standout album, My Head is an Animal.
But FEVER DREAM still has some definite bops, one of which being “Wild Roses.” As the group began this song, the lights onstage faded into a deep rosy red. If there’s one thing Of Monsters and Men has mastered over the years, it’s matching production quality with performance quality. Many of the band’s live performances sound just like the recorded versions of its songs, and this only confirms how talented the band members really are.
Talking between songs, the members’ Icelandic accents shined through the speakers. As Of Monsters and Men introduced a song that the band members said they “haven’t played a whole lot,” the group transitioned into “Róróró” off of its newest album. The song contains more than a few hard-to-reach notes, but Hilmarsdóttir still pulled them off gracefully, as she carried herself through each straining melody.
The music of Of Monsters and Men isn’t that of your typical party soundtrack, but while introducing “Wars,” lead singer Ragnar Þórhallsson said, “If you like dancing, it’s the song for you.” The song’s upbeat mood lifted the atmosphere, as the lyrics “Love you on the weekends” breezed out of the speakers, and along with the booming instruments, seemed to dance along with the crowd.
This song led swiftly into a performance of “Lakehouse,” during which the crowd was so atrocious at clapping on beat that drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson seemed to be trying to help audience members out with exaggerated motions behind the kit. Regardless, the power of the song and chanting elements made for a steady ending to the night.
The encore was a mix of the old and the new, starting with Hilmarsdóttir at the foot of the stage right next to the audience. “Waiting for the Snow” began with soft notes — the slowed down moment made for an intimate ending to the enchanting performance. Finishing on a high note, “Dirty Paws” brought the house down for a resolution of love, light and little talks.