University life often gets hectic, couple that with part time jobs and allowing yourself a social life, busy city life often engulfs your fleeting free time. This was one of those Saturdays. I unfortunately missed the Critic’s Choice winner Jack Garratt loosening the crowd for the headliners, yet Mumford & Sons kicked off their UK tour with such a multi-faceted show, I felt like I was experiencing two artists regardless.
Any fan of the band knows their latest album Wilder Mind left the banjos at the barn and stormed the studio with electric guitars instead, and this mentality was echoed into the arena. ‘Snake Eyes’ was the perfect hybrid of a track to open the gig to display that Mumford were embracing their past yet offering the sold-out arena their new direction. The energy the band exerted throughout the night when jolting around the stage hammering out guitar solos, was phenomenal and extremely unexpected.
Whilst some of their older tracks sound like to truly experience them you need to be in a field swaying with the herd, Mumford created their own bubble of folk-edge in the arena flawlessly. The extensive set rig dangled illusionary ‘floating’ orbs of light throughout the gig and were unveiled during one of their biggest hits: ‘Little Lion Man’. This sent the arena into an awe of mesmerisation of lead Marcus Mumford’s mastery of guitar and his distinctive voice. The orbs were frequently used throughout the set predominately on heavy hitters like ‘The Cave’ and ‘Believe’ where they exploded into an orgasm of neon blues.
“The energy the band exerted while hammering out guitar solos was phenomenal”
The fear of this gig becoming disjointed and a contradiction on itself with 2 different styles back to back was eliminated rapidly with a band swapping instruments almost every other song to create a folk-rock harmony. The set list allowed you to dance around like you’re at Download Fest one track then, mellow out and remember how much you love your fellow human beings the next.
Aside from the music, Marcus rarely spoke to the crowd, but when he did beers were given out, Jamie Vardy was given appraisal and they gave Jack Garratt a review of “fucking good” so you’ll have to take their word over mine. Jack later joined the group for a unique rendition of Eurythmic’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ fusing synth with rock for a bemused crowd that ultimately loved it anyway! Marcus is one of those artists that likes to annoy the stage crew by hopping into the crowd and jamming along with the people. His walk of fame didn’t disturb his song and people appeared to be mostly respectful to him, potentially due to the 3 bulky tanks parting the crowd like a modern day Moses for him, but still I’m sure someone can say they’ve ‘touched the Mumford man’ now.
“Marcus is one of those artists that likes to annoy the stage crew by hopping into the crowd and jamming along with the people”
No gig would be complete without the encore and Mumford decided a normal few final songs was not on their agenda for the night. The whole arenas attention was flipped to the other side of the building as the band, armed with nothing but a mic and guitar, decided to give the crowd the smooth acoustic jam they were craving. This was a novel idea but the sound engineers didn’t appear ready and it was too quiet so a few obnoxious individuals decided this was their time to confess their love and release the “woooh” demon from their bodies. In the words of Marcus “shut the fuck up, yeah?”
Despite their quiet folk exterior of the past, Mumford proved they can not only make alternative rock beautifully, they can play in a way that screams professionalism yet when Marcus kicks over a drum set after a heavy track, it doesn’t look ridiculous. This tour is set to be the most dynamic yet infusing the 3 albums to create an atmospheric yet energetic performance. To fans of the older style, do not be disappointed, Mumford understand and there is more than enough banjo and acoustic to warm your soul and send you home smiling.
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.