Looks like I missed two of my best gigs of 2015 off the list, well here it is now. Note to self: set reminder to upload blog pieces.
Many were doubtful how Mumford & Sons would sustain their status as acoustic geniuses with the new, more indie, album Wilder Mind. I myself had to give it a few listening sessions before being convinced, but once you were convinced – oh what a beautiful album it is. Some may have doubted whether or not the four piece could fill the halls of The O2 arena, who has been host to bands like U2. Me, not so much. I mean, the band have played the biggest festivals on this planet and have never failed to impress at any of them, so why would a roof over their head suddenly make it different.
In summary – the evening is a blended mix of new songs and old songs, of electric guitars and banjos, but mostly it is a well deserved homecoming.
The set kicks off with Snake Eyes a mid-temp track from the new album. The song is great live, but probably not the best choice for an opening track. However, it’s followed by the banjo-fuelled I Will Wait from 2012’s hit album Babel. Both the old and the new sound blend beautifully into one amazing set list, and while the cut can be made quite clearly, it is in now way alien to each other. And the total mixture of typical Mumford & Sons sounds with the new indie, electric guitar sound throughout the setlist leaves no time to get too much into the groove of the one and then be taken aback by the other. Wilder Mind is preceded by Below My Feet and followed by Awake My Soul. There’s only one small downfall with the setlist on the evening. It feels the songs are thrown together like confetti in the air, there’s no real sense of connection – lyrically, musically or tempo-wise.
The best and most anticipated song of the evening is definitely Tompkins Square Park, an ode to a park in Manhattan. And at this point the band’s new sound truly shines and proves it is stadium and arena quality. Mumford &Sons go from being the lads with the banjo to an actual rock band force to be reckoned with. The following Believe drowns the arena in a sea of mobile phones … one of the few things I do love about arena shows, it is a sight that knows no words.
The B Stage interval with 2 songs is surely a treat and a nod to the fans at the back of the arena as a smaller stage emerges on the opposite side and the boys play a two-song set acoustic. However, and this may have simply been sound issues, the two songs were indeed hard to hear all the way at the front of the big stage, which was a right shame.
The encore ensues, with the show pushing the two hour mark in true Springsteen style, and it’s everything you need from an encore. It starts off with a slow, trance-like rendition of Hot Gates, from the new album. And then, the absolute dream: I once found a cover of Mumford & Sons playing Springsteen’s I’m On Fire, and I was mind blown. Now, the boys were playing exactly this cover live in front of me. Springsteen happiness ensues and the gig ultimately jumps into the top 5 of my favourite ever concerts. The cover is only to be topped with an energetic and majestic performance of their number 1 hit Little Lion Man. And what could have been the perfect finale to a great show is almost let down by the need to close the show with a song from the new album. There was no need for that and it felt odd.
All in all, I can’t wait to the boys again live.