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29.11.10

Mumford & Sons, HMV Hammersmith Apollo 8/10/10


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With support from Matthew & The Atlas, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit.

(I’m seeing a recurring pattern with the quintessential folk band name here...)

What a year it has been for nu-folk, such a year in fact that a new term to describe the musical genre was coined. This contemporary take on folk has gradually been emerging through London’s music scene and is now a fully fledged part of it. The Communion club night turned record label (co-founded by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons) is largely responsible for this. It has carried many musicians though to mainstream ears, most notably Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, Alan Pownall and the most ground-breaking of them all, Mumford. It is this multi-instrumental quartet that have had tails wagging for a good three years now and tonight at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo I truly understand why.

Firstly we witness delightful sets from support acts Matthew & The Atlas and Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, who both surprise me with their stunning vocals and limitless musical ability (particularly Mr Flynn who seems to be able to play every instrument known to man). As I look around the room before the headliners commence, I realise that this may be the most diverse crowd I have ever been a part of. Even a few people surpass middle age (I know this for a fact because my mother was one of them!) She definitely wasn’t alone though and it was great to see people of all ages sharing a passion for this special band.

When Mumford and Sons eventually do take to the stage, the spirits of everyone in the room are instantly lifted. They launch into regular opener ‘Sigh No More’; a song that has gradually become one of my favourites from their debut of the same title. A lively ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ follows, prompting jubilant reactions and it’s soon clear that this hoedown is going to be exuberant. It’s great to see keyboard and piano-accordion player Ben Lovett dance about the stage during this song whenever he is not required instrumentally. During ‘Timshel’ I find myself smitten with guitarist/vocalist Marcus Mumford's gorgeous raspy voice, which in fact sounds just as effortless live as it does on record. But he is given the advantage of a band that can also sing well and their voices provide a great accompaniment on many songs. ‘After The Storm’ makes me realise the true poetic beauty of their lyrics; ‘there will come a time you’ll see, with no more tears, and love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears.’ As my favourite album track it was lovely to hear live in all its poignant glory.

On the night, two untitled new songs are introduced to us and both of these indicate their next record will definitely match and if not succeed the success of their debut. It’s during one of these songs that I realise this band have the potential to be huge and I don’t think it’s going to be long until they’re joining bands such as Arcade Fire at the top of their genre. But the highlight of the show undeniably occurs when they treat us to a charming acoustic performance of ‘Sister’. They each unplug their instruments, walk to the front of the stage and sing in perfect harmony to the stunned, silent crowd. Showmanship is something this band have nailed on the head (probably without even meaning to) and every member excels in brilliance tonight, especially banjo and guitar player Winston Marshall, who looks every bit the rockstar throughout. It’s easy to see why they have attracted such a large audience over the past two years. Yes their music is infectious and it makes you happy when you listen to it, but when you look deeper you can feel a certain passionate sincerity. You only have to look in the face of bassist Ted Dwane, heartfelt as he plucks away at a challenging bass line. Or Ben, eyes closed whilst playing his antique piano; together completely lost in the music. They genuinely appear overwhelmed at the praise and admiration they receive and the reason why is made apparent when they mention that this venue has special memories for them as they all grew up around the corner.

As the encore draws to a close, electric guitar, bass and drums are bought out for an electrifying rendition of ‘Dustbowl Dance’. To conclude they choose crowd favourite ‘The Cave’, which provokes the biggest reaction of the whole night. The last few minutes are truly magical as everyone skips and faultlessly sings the last few bars at the top of their lungs in complete unison. Before I have even had time to think, it’s all over and I realise that I have had a smile permanently fixed on to my face the entire time.

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1 comment:

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