Part of the blossoming New English folk scene that takes in former touring partners Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale and Johnny Flynn, all similarly coming off the back of critically acclaimed releases, Mumford and Sons are currently threatening to become thee band of the genre. Having last played Ireland only 5 months ago, Mumford and Sons seem to have gone from strength to strength since their show in the Academy’s basement in September.
That performance preceded the arrival of their debut LP, Sigh No More, by about a month and judging by the turn out for tonight’s show, the album has certainly made its mark in these parts. A full hour and a half before the doors even open, there are throngs of hopeful fans loitering outside the venues’ entrance in the hope of blagging an unlikely spare ticket.As those lucky enough to have snapped one up 4 months ago arrive, it becomes increasingly apparent that spare tickets will be few and far between.
Inside, as the final few tracks from well received Waterford support, O Emperor, draw to a close, there is barley an inch to move. When the band finally grace the stage, they are greeted with a type of enthusiasm usually reserved for far more established acts. Frontman and father to the band, Marcus Mumford, politely salutes the audience before launching directly into album opener Sigh No More. The sound quality starts off as it will continue for the evening, every guitar strum and loose breath crystal clear. It becomes obvious midway through the song, the people in attendance have a knowledge of the album and intend on letting the band know, every word making its way back onstage.
The band seem genuinely humbled after the applause, smiling from head to toe. Before they continue they introduce a brass section haunting the balconies above. The new addition and roar of the crowd seem to make there mark on the singer. As he begins the second song Winter Winds, he forgets his own lyrics, much to everyone on stages amusement. As he is not only playing guitar, singing vocals and at the same time impressively commanding the bass drum pedal from the front of the stage, this momentary lapse can be forgiven.
A little later, a new song , yet to be named, makes it Irish debut. Its in a similar vein to the albums tone, jingly jangly guitars make up the intro before breaking into a stomping climax. The song receives an as big, if not bigger reception than every song in the set so far. I Gave You All and Awake My Soul follow, but as soon as the opening chords of arguably the groups most popular song, Little Lion Man are played, the venue erupts. More surprised grins adorn each member of the band and they play out the song like its all a new experience to them. Its takes a good five minutes before the crowd reaction dies down enough for them to continue.
Nine songs in and the lonely drum kit that’s been dwelling in the shadows at the rear of the stage finally gets an occupant. Marcus takes to the stool and were treated to another new song. A heavier number titled Lover Of The Light, destined to be a future fan favourite. The song is filled out by the returning brass section in the balcony. Thistle and Weeds and Timshell lead into The Cave. Despite the song being common to every radio station playlist in the country at the minute, it fails to meet the heavy expectation placed on it. It just doesn’t seem to have the enthusiasm that has permeated the rest of the set. Maybe a sign the band are already tiring of the track that defines their sound. The energy returns for Dustbowl Dance. As keyboard player Ben Lovett takes over the drum kit, the sound grows and grows so much it becomes distorted, each member of the band beating their instruments to a pulp. Its an exhilarating climax. Out of breath and covered in sweat, waving, they leave the stage.
Almost immediately the One More Choon chants begin and don’t let up till every one is back out front, instruments in hand. For the encore, were told it shall be an old and a new to close the evenings proceedings. The first, a bittersweet song from their 2008 Love Your Ground EP, Feel the Tide, is met like an old fan favourite and set closer, Whispers In the Dark is equally engaging. As the song and the night draw to a close, once again the band looked beyond humbled. They state with a definite sincerity that they will be back soon.
Oxegen beckons and potentially an even larger stage again. A fantastic show by a band steadily on the rise.
Review by Colm O’Neill