I don’t usually send many Christmas cards and I certainly don’t have a list, but if I did – these guys would be on it. Not only did Mumford & Sons play a great gig in the Academy last night, but they proved to be thoroughly likeable chaps and were kind enough to let us photographers take our snaps during the 2nd, 3rd and 4th songs as the first was played in relative darkness. If only all bands were so considerate. If only all bands played such storming sets. A perfect gig-world.
Mumford & Sons have become huge. Their sound is huge and so too is the demand for tickets, which sold out four months ago. From early on The Academy was crammed full with an expectant crowd who had saved plenty of enthusiasm and vocal noise from the previous day’s patriotic festivities. During their tour of the UK, the band were – until recently – being supported by the impossibly excellent Fanfarlo. But as those boys decided to high-tail it to Austin, Texas for that little festival, Irish lads O Emperor joined them for dates in Edinburgh, Dublin and Belfast. The guys from Waterford (and maybe Cork – depending who you ask) have been tipped as ones to watch this year and this classy set will have done them no harm. The crowd were almost giddy with excitement waiting for the headline act. Though the front row was uniformly comprised of young, swooning ladies, the venue was packed with all sorts of people – from older couples to chin-stroking musos and English tourists.
Beginning the set with album opener and title track “Sigh No More” in the aforementioned dim light, that trademark voice from Marcus Mumford (who looks a little like Ed Droste if you ask me) began to echo around the room. The big question for their live show is whether they could recreate the huge sound of the album. If you heard their demos and early versions of the album tracks a year ago, you would have been impressed by their unique, ballsy-folk approach. But upon hearing the album versions – with their massively bombastic, military production – you’d be forgiven for wondering if they could replicate such a noise live. As such, I was more than a little surprised to see a vacant stool behind the drum kit for the majority of the set. Though Mumford and others took brief turns on stick duty, the percussion for the most part came from a single kick bass drum at the singer’s feet. It was unfathomable to see the four main men make such a huge sound accompanied only by a cellist and a horn section positioned up on the right-hand side balcony. They powered through the tracks from their debut album (vaguely in the same order as far as I remember) and also included three new songs. One was untitled and followed a similar path, while one called “Love You Lightly” or some such seemed to head down a more indie rock side street. Every song was performed with commendable gusto and the absolutely ferocious ending to “Dust Bowl Dance” before the encore was epic. The whole gig was nothing short of breath-taking and the crowd were no dissapointment either, particularly when it came to their deafening chorus of radio hit “Little Lion Man”.
I’m awful tempted to give this gig some sort of time-frame accolade but I’ll refrain. Though they’re gaining a lot of mainstream popularity, their style obviously isn’t for everybody, but if you’ve been tempted by the record, I’d recommend you get to see the live show. They return to Ireland to play Oxegen in June, though I’d be very surprised if they weren’t inking a contract for another Irish headliner after last night’s performance. Incidentally, they are touring Europe through April and then travelling North America with my Must See Band of 2010, The Middle East. What a gig that would be. Elderly relatives might justifiably be sold for a show like that. More photos are below, over at the State review and a full set on Flickr.