Mumford & Sons at the O2 Arena
Praised as the most successful British band since Coldplay, and one of the very few capable of sweeping the Album of the Year Grammy (Babel in 2013), Mumford & Sons play the first of two sold-out shows at the O2 Arena.
Although the London four-piece’s latest release Wilder Mind failed to win the same consensus from the public and the press that their earlier works enjoyed, it adds substance and depth to their live show.
The set begins with Snake Eyes, a calm but tormented ballad that slowly builds to a soft but very intense explosion. Marcus Mumford’s warm, rich and raspy voice is the trademark of this band, the true keystone connecting all the phases in their evolution.
Despite Mumford & Sons’ effort to distance themselves from the obvious bluegrass tag, it’s only when they embrace banjo and double bass that the 15,000-strong audience dance and sing wildly; I Will Wait, The Cave and Roll Away Your Stone are clearly the crowd favourites. On stage with them, Noah and the Whale’s Tom Hobden – “the best musician we know” – contributes with outstanding violin solos, especially on Ghosts That We Knew.
In the grand scheme of things, for a band, album two and three are the most difficult steps. While they rightfully succeeded with the former, the latter was a mountain too high to climb. However, the group’s live energy transform an ordinary song such as Ditmas into a spectacular moment, which the frontman sings as he walks through the packed pitch.
Speaking of playing in his hometown, Mumford jokes about the O2 Arena’s distance: “If this was Premier League, it would be an away game! From West London, it takes less time to get to Birmingham”. Showmanship is one the artist’s talents but it’s a hard one to master: the swapping of instruments during Lover of the Light (Mumford shows off drumming skills as he sings) is completely gratuitous and detrimental to the song, which simply doesn’t sound as good as it should.
The b-stage moment, which in recent years has become an industry standard in major tours, sees the band playing around one single mic, with the guitar lightly plugged. It’s a good idea to convey a sense of intimacy but, especially on the first of two songs played in this way, the public’s chatting is louder than the music.
There are no confetti or fireworks; it’s a simple set up, with spherical lights setting the mood through colour changes. The encore is very intense with the spiritual Hot Gates, a basic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on Fire and their debut album hit Little Lion Man. However, the personal highlight of the entire show is The Wolf, their most powerful, direct and uplifting song to date.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
For further information about Mumford & Sons visit here.
Watch I Will Wait live at the O2 Arena here: