Concert Review: Mumford & Sons

I approached last night’s Mumford & Sons concert with the same attitude I usually adopt before a promising first date: Excited, with a touch of trepidation.

I was excited, because I’ve grown to love Mumford & Sons in recent months and couldn’t wait to see that energy channeled into a live show. I was nervous, though, because I wasn’t sure how the band’s folksy sound would translate in a 20,000-seat arena. When you think of jam-packed arenas, you think of Bruce Springsteen or Coldplay. You don’t think of a British folk quartet.

But much like a promising first date, my expectations were completely shattered.

I came into the show a bit confused. Had I known just how big Mumford & Sons has grown, last night would have made total sense from the onset. But the last time the band was in town, they performed at the Crystal Ballroom, which holds 1,500 — a far cry from the 15,000 that showed up last night at the Rose Garden. Even weirder: The band performed before those 15,000 fans on the strength of their debut album alone. How many artists accomplish that? (I just realized that you could substitute Ke$ha for Mumford & Sons in this equation so far, and it would be just as apt, but the comparison makes me icky, so I’m moving on.)

Mumford & Sons announced early on that last night’s concert was their largest to date in America. I’m guessing that torch will be passed before long — maybe as soon as their Seattle performance tonight. It’s not just that “Sigh No More,” the band’s debut album, is beyond solid. Their live show is as engaging as any I’ve attended. It’s crazy to think that this band is only one album into their career.

The group played most of their debut album, along with a few new tracks — including a personal favorite, “Lover of the Light.”

The highlights were plentiful — “Lover of the Light” was near the top of the list — but a few leap to mind:

The horn-driven “Winter Winds” completely filled the Rose Garden; there’s no other way to put it. Any worries about the band’s smallish sound translating to a big stage evaporated with the opening notes of this track.

“White Blank Page” was every bit as haunting in concert as on the iPod. The anger and hurt in those lyrics — “But tell me now, where was my fault / In loving you with my whole heart” — was both painful and powerful to hear.

The band members name-dropped Old Town Music, Powell’s and the Blazers in between songs. Seriously, that between-song banter might have spoken to me more personally than any lyric. I’ll forever love Mumford & Sons, if only because they mentioned Powell’s — which elicited a huge cheer — and my beloved Blazers.

You can’t review a Mumford & Sons concert without mentioning “Little Lion Man.” The group turned on the lights you see above for that cut, and the sheer energy and passion that goes into the song was felt by everyone in the crowd. Naturally, everyone sang along to that profane chorus. It was delightful.

The slow burn of “Awake My Soul” took on new life in the expanse of the Rose Garden. Even with 15,000 fans jammed in with each other, it was every bit as intimate and personal as when I listen on the iPod.

Mumford & Sons closed with “The Cave,” which was the best possible note on which to end. From those opening few notes, the crowd was on its feet and roaring its approval. I love the track for many reasons, not the least of which is that breakdown at the one-minute mark: You’ve gotten through the first verse and chorus, and at that moment, all the instruments kick into another gear, and the song takes on an added urgency.

The lyrics get a little more forceful, the music a little faster-paced. And the crowd loved every second of it. We clapped, stomped our feet, and sang along like our lives depended on it. And, as is my wont, I shouted along those final lyrics, much to the chagrin of my neighbors: “And I’ll find strength in pain / And I will change my ways / I’ll know my name as it’s called again.”

It’s really remarkable just how Mumford & Sons can turn an album full of depressing, hurting, and angry songs into a 15,000-strong sing-along. It was cathartic and exciting, empowering and inspiring. It was one of the more fun concerts I’ve seen in a long time, and — much like I feel after a great first date — I can’t wait to see them again.

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5 responses to “Concert Review: Mumford & Sons

  1. Mumfordmania was running wild in the Rose Garden Tuesday night.

    Everything Matt said was right on the money. I had never been to a concert that was so passionate and so engadging. I couldn’t take my eyes of the stage, and my heart hung on every word.

    One of the things Marcus Mumford said really resinated with me. He couldn’t believe he was playing “in the home of the f’n Trailblazers.” How did he end up here? In front of the largest American audience the band has ever played in front of?

    I found myself asking that same question. Back in Septemeber, my wife Marlena started talking about Mumford and Sons when we were on a trip to Chicago. I had never heard of them. When we got home, she downloaded a couple of their songs. The first time I listened to “The Cave,” I wasn’t blown away. I thought, eh this band is not for me.

    Not too long after that, my friend Matt posted about Mumford and Sons coming to Portland. Without even talking to me, she told Matt we wanted to go with them. I wanted to be a good sport so I listened to “The Cave” a few more times, and it started to grow on,” me. Then, I heard “Roll Away Your Stone,” “Winter Winds,” “Little Lion Man,” and “Awake My Soul,” and I thought I had heard enough songs to at least be interested during the show. But, I wasn’t completely sold just yet.

    Well … once I heard “Roll Away Your Stone” live, the rest is history. All of those songs sounded better than I ever could have imagined. And there were some different songs that captured my attention, such as “White Blank Page” and “Thisel and Weeds.” One of the moments still burned into my mind is when Marcus screams “I will hold on, I will hold on hope” with his back to the audience and shaking his guitar back and forth. You could tell he was really feeling it, and we were really feeling it. I was also fasinated by all the instrument changes between and during songs, and the diversity of music for only one album. These guys sound like they have been playing music forever.

    Near the end, Mumford and Sons walked off the stage without singing their most popular song. I sprang to my feet and shouted “cave, cave cave, cave!” I was hoping to get the whole Garden involved, but I was the only one shouting. I should have been embarrased, but I just kept going on with it.”

    Well … they came back on stage for an encore. They teased us more by playing “Sigh No More,” the sweet opening track from their album. Then there was silence. Another chance for me to shout “cave, cave, cave cave!” Finally, the familiar opening notes to that song could be heard and the whole place just erupted!

    We all sang louder and louder as the song and the entire concert reached its creshendo with the final lyric: “And I’ll find strength in pain / And I will change my ways / I’ll know my name as it’s called again.” As I screamed those last words, I felt like I could fly.

    After the concert, I tweeted “so come out of your cave and be a Mumford and Sons fan.” For me, on this night, it couldn’t have been more true.

  2. I have been WAITING SO LONG to see them..your are soooooo LUCKY!!! I’m waitin here in Minnesota……………………my heart aches to see them…

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