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“This is our second night here at the amazing Hollywood Bowl,” Mumford & Sons frontman Marcus Mumford told the sold-out crowd Monday at the iconic amphitheater. “The first night was business, and this one is pleasure.”
Saturday night’s crowd might beg to differ, but certainly the U.K. rock band’s follow-up performance was solidly enjoyable, filled with grandiose swells of sonic emotion and an overwhelming sense of communal energy. The show, in support of the group’s new sophomore album Babel, forged a sensibility of togetherness, of the crowd joining with the musicians to augment the already-emotive numbers. This idea pervades Mumford’s lyrics as well, with the live setting lending additional meaning to lines like “And you are not alone in this/As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand.”
With this as the band’s central thesis, it’s no wonder that live shows have become its defining quality. Although “Little Lion Man,” from the quartet’s 2009 debut Sigh No More, and new single “I Will Wait” have transformed Mumford & Sons into a radio band, it’s the consistent touring — largely in the U.S. — that has earned the group its devout fanbase. There is, in many ways, a surprising correlation between Mumford & Sons today and the response to Dave Matthews Band in the late ’90s.
Both acts are led by a humble but charismatic musician who knows when to highlight his solo effort and when to allow his band to rise around him. Both arose in a niche scene, eventually growing — thanks in part to radio play — to embrace a mainstream audience. And bands both allow their songs to grow and expand in the live setting, evidenced by Mumford & Sons’ notably powerful and dynamic performance of “Below My Feet” on Monday. There are sonic and stylistic variances, certainly, but there is a key correlation between the audience responses generated by the two artists. And this seems to rely greatly on the idea of community.
At the Bowl, this was true both in the crowd and onstage. Mumford & Sons brought tourmates Dawes out to perform “Awake My Soul” — something they’ve been doing consistently on this tour — and wrapped the encore, again with Dawes, with a folksy, buoyant rendition of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” These moments stood out above the rest. Although the more introspective numbers (see: the dramatic crescendo of “Ghosts That We Knew”) held emotional gravity, it was the lively, banjo-heavy numbers that elevated the performance from, as Mumford said, business to pleasure.
If the only real complaint about a concert is that it lasted, perhaps, 30 minutes too long, then there is no real criticism at all. During the course of the summer and fall, Mumford & Sons have simultaneously tightened and loosened their live show in all the right places. They know when to aptly re-create their albums, invigorating the record cuts with live energy, and they know when to let them go, releasing the tracks into surging musical meanderings that — dare we say — could be construed as jams.
I Will Wait
Roll Away Your Stone
Below My Feet
Little Lion Man
Lover of the Light
Thistle & Weeds
Ghosts That We Know
For Those Below
Awake My Soul
White Blank Page
Dust Bowl Dance
Whispers in the Dark
With a Little Help From My Friends
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