Mumford And Sons are one of those bands that divide opinion – you either love their banjo folk-influenced style or you simply dont.
But now on their fourth album, they still have enough dedicated fans to sell out arenas across the UK, and last night they came home to London.
The tour itself has faced some controversy after four shows in Liverpool, Cardiff, Sheffiled and Manchester had to be rescheduled because of the ambitious staging. It was certainly spectacular at first glance, with the stage set in the middle of the arena, a bit like a barge across the sea of fans, made up of stepped platforms.
But as the show got going, they just werent able to fill such a huge space for most of the gig and they didnt make really make use of it until towards the end with lighting and pyrotechnics. Otherwise, the stage felt gratuitous and a bit of a novelty that hadnt been thought through.
The concept also meant that on the floor, only half the room could see what was happening at one time and even from the seats, the lights that moved like tentacles in the sky meant at some points you couldnt see the band at all.
They did know how to work the crowd, though, with lead singer Marcus Mumford starting the second song Little Lion Man – an old favourite – by reminding everyone that just because you have a seat, it doesnt mean you have to sit on it, getting everyone on their feet. And during Believe he encouraged the classic phone light/lighters in the air to turn the O2 into a sea of bright dots.
The set list, though, felt a bit disconnected. Over the four albums, the bands style has changed considerably from the banjo strumming that made them famous to much rockier, electronic-filled songs on the new album. The tour focused heavily on the new material from Delta, which is fair enough when thats the name of the tour, but the album was only released on the same day at the first night in Dublin, meaning the crowd werent quite as familiar with the songs and it did leave the atmosphere a bit flat at times.
They started with new single Guiding Light and finished their encore with the title track from the new album Delta and although enjoyable, it wasnt what the crowd wanted to end on, with many leaving as the song started in a bid to beat the queues instead.
When they did play the favourites like Little Lion Man, The Cave and I Will Wait, everyone was on their feet, dancing and they were full of energy, with everyone reciting the lyrics back to them.
And there were moments where they somehow made the cavernous O2 Arena seem intimate, using small sections of the stage to perform gentler songs Ghosts That We Knew and Timshel. During Timshel, they gathered round one microphone with one guitar and a banjo and just kept it simple and it was genuinely beautiful.
There were funny moments too – Marcus Mumford running through the crowd, trying to build on the feeling of connecting with the crowd was made even better by the security guard pursuing him with a torch as he made his way around the arena.
Delta proves that Mumford And Sons still have the energy and ambition to create a spectacular show but maybe its time to strip it back because it was those moments and not the elaborately staged songs that were the most memorable and enjoyable of the whole night.
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