Mumford & Sons: Delta Tour Concert Review
Mumford & Sons have burgeoned from their raw and rustic origins to have luckily not strayed much at all. Although the British quartet curved and softened elements of the rough, intimate folk of their 2007 origin story to include flickering arena-rock guitars, pyrotechnics, and windy synthesizers, their latest releases stress the same relaxed, intimate, homey vibe as in the past. Even the accounts of death and dissonance that “Delta” brings to Mumford’s joyous lyrical appearance seem elated when played with a familial smile.
When Mumford & Sons opened their Indianapolis show on Monday, March 26, after following opener, Cat Power, it was as if the hooting and plucking ensemble were performing outside an ancient London pub. They were centrally located in the middle of Bankers Life Fieldhouse with large screens surrounding all four corners of the stage. Even the view from the balcony seats was worth the price of the ticket.
Barrel-chested lead vocalist Marcus Mumford wasted no time in making the stage his own. When he wasn’t commencing concert chronicles with the hard-strummed, slow-building “Guiding Light,” the main Mumford was running to man sets of drums (on “Lover of the Light”), run through multiple sections of seating, leap into crowds, flash video cameras at the audience and grin like a welcoming host. He wasn’t clumsy or transparent about his outward reach. It was as if he had opened his arms wider than usual to embrace his crowd, and they congregated and snuggled comfortably, even to his surprise. “You guys are fucking amazing,” he told the Indy audience, with what seemed like genuine shock, awe, and warmth.
Returning to that “similar sounding” comment: In turning its delicately contagious choruses’ impressive and rustic elements of Mumford & Sons’ melodies came across in that grey area between U2 and Coldplay. What M&S have accomplished to cloak that grand protuberance in concert is amplify the roles of its usual folksy apparatuses, and sporadically put them through FX pedals. Now, quickly picked banjos (courtesy of Winston Marshall), cheerful brass in the form of a trumpet and trombone, and intense violin replace the delay-heavy ring so familiar to the Edge and his possible influence on “Babel” and “Guiding Light.”
Ted Dwane’s aggressive plucking of an upright double bass while Ben Lovett hammered a piano through the coda of “Little Lion Man” gave that song a texture of elevation and momentum familiar to Cold2 (or UPlay), but without Bono’s determined sincerity. Instead, a craggy Mumford bellowed out highly particular refrigerator magnet poetry (“Your grace is wasted in your face / Your boldness stands alone among the wreck / Now learn from your mother / Or else spend your days biting your own neck”) while drubbing out a rhythm with a drum’s foot pedal.
Cleaving close to their folksy beginnings meant comfortable touches on gently torrid tunes such as an unplugged “Timshel,” where all four members congregated around one microphone in the midst of the crowd. Marcus demanded that the crowd just “Shut up” in order for them to hear and be touched right down to their soul. Upon ending a second song in such a manner, he commented about how remarkable silence (by the crowd) can truly be.
Utilizing a principally all-white lighting rig during the show gave the entire concert a naked spotlessness, and turned the long, stark plane of the stage with its winged sides into a cross between a boxing square and an abandoned ship. Their newer songs such as a shivering “The Wild” touched upon a sense of finality (“We saw birth, and death / Can’t we be still … I think it’s the wild / Puts the fear of God in me”) that put baritone singer Mumford’s delicate highs, gruff lows and unwieldy yelps into lonelier perspective. He wasn’t just singing to provoke, as he had in the past. Mumford was singing to plead and to pray.