Concert Review: Mumford and Sons at Fox Theatre in Atlanta
Mumford and Sons was last in Atlanta on November 7, 2010, playing the Buckhead Theatre. This is a 2500-capacity theatre, and they sold it out. Not instantaneous mind you, but a sell out nonetheless. “Little Lion Man” was just starting to find its way into heavy rotation on Atlanta’s modern rock station (Dave FM), and people were just beginning to see an inkling of what this band would become. Hop forward seven months. They are now playing the Fox Theatre that has a capacity of 5000, but the real difference is they sold it out in a minute. The demand was easily there for the group to have scheduled three nights in the storied venue. In the span of seven months, the folk rock group from the UK has become nothing short of white hot with the release of their second single “The Cave” and the relentless touring in the days since their last visit. So could this group of guitar playing, banjo strumming, pond jumpers really live up to the hype of this show? Quite easily in fact.
The evening opened with two acts – Matthew and the Atlas, The Low Anthem. Both acts sounded like they were cut from the same folk cloth as Mumford, and they had just followed their supporting gig with Mumford and Sons through Bonnaroo Music Festival the day before. No one looked any worse for the wear as both bands put forth solid sets. Matthew and the Atlas seemed a little more along the Iron and Wine, Ray Lamontagne vein while The Low Anthem seemed more comfortable painting atmospheric portraits through song. These are definitely a couple of bands to keep your eyes on as the years roll by.
Then it was time for the main course of the evening. The quartet wasted no time bounding the stage and launching into the album’s opening salvo “Sigh No More.” It was a high-energy performance and the perfect launching pad for the evening. As the song wrapped, frontman Marcus Mumford told each audience member to introduce themselves to the person on their left as well as the one on their right because we’re all in for quite a journey this evening. What a journey it was covering their debut album just about cover-to-cover as well as introducing us to four new songs that will undoubtedly become fixtures on their upcoming album.
After hitting “Winter Winds” and a new song called “Below My Feet,” the band took a bold step. Can 5000 people shut their traps long enough so the band can unplug the amps and go all-acoustic? I’ll have to admit it was a bit dicey at first. There were members of the audience that seemed to be inflicted by their own special form of tourette’s. Thankfully, the collective pulled it together and supported the boys of Mumford as they performed a chilling version of “Timshel” as well as unveiling the tune “Sister.” The four new tracks that were introduced were very high caliber and should relieve any fans worrying the band might fall victim to the dreaded sophomore curse that seems to befall so many promising bands. Marcus Mumford said they’d been working on new tracks throughout the tour and plan to lay them down in the studio as soon as they wrap their current slate of dates. Are we looking at the perfect stocking stuffer perhaps?
Mumford’s stage show seemed to be a light extravaganza. They setup a wall of lights before they came on the stage, and they used them throughout to gyrate in time with the beat. In a cool effect, they even had lights strung up over the audience in the lower orchestra section that made the sizable venue seem almost homely. The one worry I had entering the show was how the album would translate to the stage and more so the larger venue. I’ve always seen “Sigh No More” as an intimate collection that plugs into the listener. What happens when its asked to sprawl to the furthest reaches of the balcony? First, it seems the album rocks a lot heavier than I had originally gave it credit for. The boys tore up tracks like “White Blank Page” and “Little Lion Man.” Secondly, they seemed to ignore the space. They played their set as if we were in a coffee-house listening room and looked to connect with every listener regardless their distance from the stage. This was their room, and they weren’t going to let anything detract from the power of these songs.
After a lengthy set, they returned to the stage to perform a song they were still constructing that I’ll temporarily call “Lover, I’ll be Home” and closed the evening with their barn burner “The Cave.” The energy from the crowd was electric. Being in the balcony and feeling the rumble, it makes you wonder just how solid the engineering was in the 20s when this place was built. The audience was entranced by Mumford. They knew the album inside and out, and positively received the new material Mumford was still toying with.
It was a fabulous evening of music. Mumford and Sons outdid themselves, and this goes down as my favorite performance to date in 2011. They have an energy and showmanship that is tough to duplicate, and they are destined to be big stars. Watch out Coldplay. You’ve got serious competition nipping at your heels on the arena circuit. These folk rockers have the goods, and they are certainly not afraid to bring it.