At the outset of last night’s gig, and after opening with new song ‘Snake Eyes’, Marcus Mumford declared “it was great last night but this already feels better!”…I bet he says that to all the gigs! The feeling at last night’s concert was one of seeing a well-oiled machine at work. Transitions between songs and various instruments was seamless and interaction with the crowd was easy going and confident. This London band returned to the capital for two sell out nights at the O2 arena and even after a set of over two hours left the crowd cheering for more.
There has been much said of the new material with its move away from the banjos and acoustic guitars of old into a more electric guitar based sound but last night, as the band effortlessly switched between old and new in a twenty song set, the fans seemed happy to sing, dance and jump around to everything irrespective of which album it came from.
The Mumfords cancelled a proposed performance in Birmingham at the BBC Music Awards yesterday so that they could concentrate on making the London gig as good as it could possibly be and it seemed like the right choice. Marcus Mumford’s vocals and instrumental prowess were showcased as he played several guitars, drums and tambourine as well as retaining clear vocals even late on in the gig when he waded through the entire standing arena during ‘Ditmas’, named after a neighbourhood in Brooklyn. His voice seems to be getting better and better and that combined with Winston Marshall’s string work, whether on lead guitar or banjo, made for a great night and a promise of things to come.
After fourteen songs taken from all three albums (five from ‘Sigh No More’, five from ‘Wilder Mind’ and four from ‘Babel’ for those interested in detail), the band moved off of the main stage and down to a single microphone by the sound deck in the midst of the crowd to sing two acoustic numbers. The first, ‘Sister’, was on an EP released before their debut album and the second “Cold Arms” was from their latest offering and the combination of old and new gave a feeling of a musical journey, sounding wonderful in this stripped down format. Both were greeted with an adoring hush from the crowd. Marcus thanked the audience and said: “it’s difficult to get a room this big that quiet!”. For Mumfords Marcus, Winston, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane, and for the fans too, this was an unexpected moment of intimacy and a high point of the night.
Then it was back to the main stage for a rousing four song encore that started with new song ‘Hot Gates’ and a well received cover of Springsteen classic, ‘I’m on Fire’, before heading back to where it all started with their break through song ‘Little Lion Man’, which was greeted like an old friend. A great evening was brought to a close with crowd pleaser ‘The Wolf’, from their new album, and a happy capacity crowd made their way in to the wintery rain still buzzing and continuing to debate the various merits of old and new. For me, this concert proved that all three albums sit comfortably together as a progression and give a two finger salute to the critics out there who insist on pigeon holing music and bands into genres.