|Photo credit by Katie Guymon|
The UK four-piece, Mumford and Sons, had the city of Saint Louis abuzz for literally months before it ever came to town. Last night's show at Off Broadway was announced "sold out" several weeks ago. Since that proclamation, many locals hit themselves over the heads ("Doh!") as punishment for procrastination, and those tardy fans lit up Facebook and Craig's List and Twitter, searching for tickets. I've been to a lot of concerts; very rarely have I felt the kind of energy that surrounded Mumford and Sons, let alone before the band even crossed the state line.
Cut to last night: I arrived at Off Broadway at 7:30, a half hour before doors, to find an already lengthy line of eager beavers among a smattering of aforementioned tardy fans all but down on hands and knees praying that someone had an extra ticket or two to sell. Once the doors were open, our frenzied mass immediately bum rushed the stage to secure spots in plain view. I have never seen Off Broadway that packed that early in the night, or maybe even that packed at all.
The music started at 8:30 with the first (unbilled) opener and followed with the second opener, a much-loved local band, Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine (with Beth Bombara as the Lonely Pine). Both openers were a natural fit, genre-wise, to lead into Mumford and Sons, but with the music's hushed acoustic, down-tempo cadence, the audience became increasingly anxious, members stirring in their places like students squirming in desks five minutes before the bell. That energy could not be contained.
Finally, at a quarter of ten, the quartet of Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett, and Ted Dwayne took the stage. They opened the set with the title track off of this year's U.S. debut album (it was released in 2009 in the UK), Sigh No More. The boys stood plainly in a row downstage and shocked their audience to attention with their haunting harmonies. They literally had me at, "Serve God, love me and men..."
It didn't take long for Mumford and Sons to pick up speed; their penchant for teasing the crowd with gorgeous, slow-paced intros as on "Awake My Soul" built remarkably tangible suspense until the "Country" Marshall's banjo detonated in feverish desire. That dropped bomb gave way to the entire audience jumping up and down in unison, hands clapping high over heads. Played right in the middle of the fifteen song set, "Little Lion Man" was the epitome of such an explosion.
The only possible comparison I can make to this is an Avett Brothers show (I sat in the balcony at last year's show at The Pageant, and I was nervous that fans were going to fly over the railings in their unbridled enthusiasm). Mumford and Sons have mastered the art of blending punk rock with their folk, at least onstage. In return, our Saint Louis audience stunned the band with its full-fledged engrossment and boiling-over energy, especially for a Tuesday night.
|Photo credit by Katie Guymon|
After the band wowed with my personal favorite, "White Blank Page," the distinct smell of popcorn arose from a mystery location, and Mumford asked the audience, "Where's the fucking popcorn?" He became delightfully distracted by the aroma, giving us a few moments of banter, the only time the band stopped playing for any noticeable amount of time all evening.
The set closed out with "Dust Bowl Dance," in which Mumford traded his guitar for the drum kit, a frequent move for him last night. The two song encore featured a rollicking cover of "Wagon Wheel," an Old Crow Medicine Show cover that had the entire audience singing along, and the band finished out the night with a new song called "Whispers in the Dark."
The only song off Sigh No More that wasn't played was the horn-backed "Winter Winds." I hate to say that was the disappointment of the evening since Mumford and Sons clearly gave us so much; I feel as though I don't have the right to complain one bit. The boys threw everything out on the table: they looked us in the eyes as they sang so their unabashedly emotional lyrics would penetrate our many layers, and most importantly, they flat out jammed.
"Winter Winds" or not, there's really not much more I can ask for.
Mumford and Sons perform "Timshel" at Off Broadway:
Sigh No More
Awake My Soul
Nothing Is Written (new song)
I Gave You All
Little Lion Man
Lover of the Light (new song)
Thistle & Weeds
After the Storm
White Blank Page
Roll Away Your Stone
Dust Bowl Dance
Wagon Wheel (Old Crow Medicine Show cover)
Whispers in the Dark (new song)