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.