Mumford and Sons,
By Leonard Duffy
There are bands critics love to loathe and then there’s Mumford and Sons. Since first picking up their banjos in anger, the Londoners have been unassailable as pop’s pariahs-in-chief.
They are upbraided for their wide-eyed folk rock – but even more so for their sartorial choices (all that tweed) and because they’re posh (banjo player and guitarist Winston Marshall is the son of a hedge fund billionaire).
Mumford and Sons have sensibly shrugged off the opprobrium and got on with what they’re best at: making heart-felt arena folk that navigates a course between Coldplay and an open-mic fiddle session.
What they do isn’t to all tastes – but they can’t be accused of taking the obvious route.
Their determination to be there for their fans arguably reaches its peak with their new tour: an “in the round” presentation that finds the four-piece bashing out their mandolin-propelled anthems from the middle of the floor (via a somewhat ungainly stage, with its warrens of ramps and nooks).
Marcus Mumford and his cohorts worked it for all they were worth, starting with keening new tracks 42 and Guiding Light – from just-released fourth album Delta – and segueing into Little Lion Man, one of their break-out hits from 2009.
It was a bish bash bevy of banjos, stand-up bass and impassioned belting from the frontman (who later got up close and personal by jumping into the crowd).
The Delta songs were a functional return to the group’s acoustic founding principles while a smattering from 2015’s Wilder Mind will have reminded fans of that chilling moment when Mumford and Sons wanted to be the new Razorlight (going so far as don leather jackets and suck their cheeks in for their photo-shoots).
“Less is more” is a maxim rarely applied to arena rock but one which Mumford and Sons have wisely embraced.
“We wanted to bring people back into our world.” @mumfordandsons’ Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane take us behind “Guiding Light,” the lead single from #DeltaTheAlbum. Spin it in its entirety now: https://t.co/mwPPZk1Q0g pic.twitter.com/mhQa1LzBqk— Pandora (@pandoramusic) November 16, 2018
Thus the true heart-in-mouth moments came as they retreated from bombast, such as when gathered around a single mic for Timshel.
Mumford and Sons had achieved something many bands attempt but rarely pull off in making a huge arena feel human and intimate.