"I have no time for your cynic's mind": Mumford & Sons (Concert Post)
So, how was Mumford and Sons round two?
Everybody who's known me longer than a year or two (or knows me really well) knows I saw Mumford and Sons in 2011 when they last came to Arizona, for their Railroad Revival Tour. It was one of the best concert experiences I have ever had, although about 90% of the rest of the attendees would disagree. I got lucky and wriggled to the front long before the Gentlemen of the Road took the stage- I'm not one of those jerks who lunge through the crowd at the last minute, drunk and/or toting a girlfriend who whined about not being able to see. (Obviously I wouldn't be toting a girlfriend in any condition, but you know the front-row usurpers I mean.) Short
people single girls have it easy at general admission shows. Look up (way up) from under your lashes at just the right tall wifebeater-clad bro guys and you practically part the red sea, because you take up so little space that nobody minds if you stand in front of them, and they like to feel gallant. Mumford & Sons held their last Arizona show in a parking lot between some apartment complexes and the railroad tracks- and they probably oversold it just a little. I hear the people in the latter half couldn't see a darned thing.
But I was there, all by myself, and by the time the first two acts- the fabulous Old Crow Medicine Show and the breathtaking Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- finished, I was about three or four "rows" back. Alex from ESMZ even hopped over the fence to fraternize with us and I gave him something like a slow motion rapturous high-five. (Side note, I still don't listen to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros very much but they blew my mind with their live show.) We'd been standing for at least three hours by the time Mumford & Sons took the stage but the moment they did, a kind of euphoria swept the crowd.
They were a much younger band, then. I know it was only two years, but it makes a big difference in band years. Musically speaking, they were not so good as they were on Wednesday, I think. Not that they were bad, mind. Not even close to bad. But I was still in shock of the Edward Sharpe business and the thought crossed my mind that they were good in concert, but not maybe great. But the spirit of the audience rose and rose, and we sang along, every word we knew. In fact, so many voices joined in the singing that more than once the audience drowned out the band. Yes. Just like how it happened according to Beatles lore, with screaming overpowering the amplifiers, only this audience was singing.
A girl a few paces from me actually cried. I watched her passionately beat her fists in the air and bawl out the lyrics to "Winter Winds" as tears fell from her eyes. I've never seen that before.
Nor have I ever seen, before or since (although this is very circumstantial), how a crowd of people actually formed on the rooftops of the aforementioned apartments throughout the night. It gave one a feeling of being completely and utterly surrounded by music lovers, and that can really go a long way to connecting you to the music.
The boys debuted "Lover's Eyes" that night, which would appear on Babel and it was so wonderful I paused to make a note of the lyrics. "Lord, forget all of my sins/Or let me die where I lie/Beneath the curse of my lover's eyes." Quintessential Mumford. Ok, so they never deviate from their favorite rhyme scheme. Ok, so sometimes they wax a little cheesy. But the lyrics (and the banjo/mandolin usage, and the fact that Marcus plays the drums and sings at the same time) are my favorite part of the Mumford and Sons act. I love, and always have loved, the way they capture what you might call big little moments.
I've read criticism of Babel that complained that it was still playing the same everyman archtype- an average man's interactions with God and love, more melodramatic than momentous- that Sigh No More did. I think that if you've ever felt how big small moments can be, you know how much they resonate. Some people do not understand how strong such a frail thing as faith can feel, when you exercise it. That is what M&S's more spiritual songs make me think of: that moment when you discover, or rediscover, the power of small and simple truths. I can't even tell you how it felt, in my personal experience, to have left a bishop's office with a temple recommend in my hand after several years without. But the boys captured it to a degree when they wrote "The Cave". To most people, it was a little moment. To me, it was huge, swelling: "'Cos I need freedom now/and I need to know how/to live my life as it's meant to be." Mumford & Sons is, to me, the soundtrack to both struggles and, more importantly, second chances.
Anyway, the best part of the entire evening in April 2011, the night before my epistemology final, was the very end, when everyone on the train- all three bands, families, crew, everyone- got onstage together to sing a couple of songs, including "This Train Is Bound for Glory" by Woody Guthrie. The song lasted about eight minutes and it blew my mind. It was so genuine. Even the children up there with their parents were singing and wriggling with camaraderie. This, I remember thinking, was how music should always feel. Like being together joyfully with your loved ones. Oh, and the bearded, strumming ghosts of the folk singers who came before you.
There was no such grand finale to the show on Wednesday. But that was ok- after a dynamite closing number ("Dust Bowl Dance") the encore was 2/3 acoustic (an intimate cover of "I'm on Fire" by Springsteen, & "Reminder", plus a full-throttle rendition of "The Cave"). I wasn't in the front- I was in the back, on the lawn, where the dust and grass and marijuana smoke were tickling my allergies. But that was ok too- I was with my irrepressible husband, and my friend Caitlin and her sister Tory. The unified crowd did not overpower the band this time. But that was ok too- it let their musicianship really show through, and I was proud that they, like me, had grown into themselves since the first time we met. I still thrilled and my heart felt full to bursting. What more could you ask from a band, or from a show, than to be sorry when it's over?
In answer to your question, the second time was still really awesome. But I'm glad I've seen them twice.
If you've never heard Mumford & Sons (where have you been?) here's my favorite picks, even though they only have 2 albums and an EP or two's worth of material available. No Time For Cynics is the name of the Spotify playlist, and these are the tracks:
For Your Playlist: Side A
1. "I Will Wait" from Babel (I was disappointed with it as a single but it grew on me in a big way)
2. "The Cave" from Sigh No More
3. "Roll Away Your Stone" from Sigh No More
4. "Below My Feet" from Babel (My favorite)
5. "Dust Bowl Dance" from Sigh No More
For Your Playlist: Side B
1. "Awake, My Soul" from Sigh No More
2. "Lover's Eyes" from Babel
3. "Not With Haste" from Babel
4. "Devil's Spoke/Sneh Ko Marg" from the Dharohar Project EP with Laura Marling, & Dharohar Project
I actually wanted to make it "To Darkness" which is the early version of what became "Broken Crown" on Babel but Spotify's copy is missing the last half of the song... :(
5. "Janglin'" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
6. "James River Blues" by the Old Crow Medicine Show
7. "I Will Wait" cover by Gavin Mikhail
Covers are a good way to tell if you like the song itself- more on that in another post. I thought this was a beautiful cover of a beautiful song.