After having some of their stage gear stolen, and with other places in Australia receiving special mini-festival performances, you’d be forgiven for thinking Mumford & Sons’ Sydney show wouldn’t rate amongst the best of ’em. But you’d be wrong. The English quartet put on an excellent concert of inclusive and thoughtful indie folk tunes that could be enjoyed by young and old alike.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were the supports and they did arrive a little late. Alex Ebert was hilarious as he apologised for having a Spinal Tap moment (getting lost in the bathroom) but that he did (with added emphasis) wash his hands after all that. The evening saw the ragtag group play as a twelve-piece, with instruments like keys, double bass, violin and guitars. They started off strongly with “Man On Fire” as Ebert asked us all to dance with him. He got up close and personal in the photographers’ pit in a move that was very reminiscent of Nick Cave performing during Grinderman’s set at Homebake last year.
From the danceable pop of the opener, the group proceeded with the very catchy, “I Don’t Wanna Pray”. This tune boasts the repetitive, earworm-like lyrics “I love my God, God made love”. Ebert sang gorgeous harmonies with Jade Castrinos to this alt-country track and just generally meandered about the stage.
The group jingled and jangled their way through some catchy tunes and slower ballads. For “Child” a ‘friend’ aka Marcus Mumford joined in on mandolin. This track was softer and much sadder than the numbers played earlier, but they soon brought the set home with a fun “Let’s Get High” and a climactic “Home”, where the audience joined in and seemed to genuinely lap things up.
Mumford & Sons started their set with a slow-building jam before they launched into “Lover’s Eyes”. Their harmonies soared with the new song, which sounds like the perfect thing to accompany a journey past the spaces by the side of a dusty road.
The guys played in front of a backdrop, which featured their album’s art while the lights suspended on top of the stage sat in circles that looked like candles and cast great shadows at different moments. It was a cool effect (particularly when some fairy lights came on rather dramatically during “Little Lion Man”) as the band exclaimed “There are shitloads of you out there!”
“Roll Away Your Stone” and old single, “Winter Winds” were early favourites from their debut album and naturally produced big, visceral sing-alongs in the crowd. It’s the kind of reaction I’ve also seen a group like Boy & Bear inspire in their audiences, due to the winning combination of heartfelt, indie folk that also has the right amount of shake and shimmy.
Marcus Mumford in particular was an absolute joy to watch. He was constantly swapping instruments with ease and singing note-perfect lead vocals. His delivery also came across as utterly honest and authentic. It was so moving at times, that during the more whimsical moments detailing heartbreak, you had to stop yourself from jumping up on stage and giving the man a giant, comforting hug.
They played newer songs like “Holland Road” and “Below My Feet” and while these were good, one criticism is that a lot of the new material had a tendency to sound like Sign No More. It has been a common thread in the reviews of Babel, but the crowd did seem to find it pleasant enough, even if I could’ve used a little more variety.
The boys did drop a haunting version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”. It’s the one people will know for the spine-tingling chorus ‘lie a lie’. It was a searing addition and one that was given the full Mumford & Sons treatment, meaning it sat well with the best of their own material like “Little Lion Man”, “Thistle & Weeds”, “I Will Wait” and “The Cave”. These songs all had the common strength of being able to make people dance to catchy banjo and acoustic guitar riffs and for containing very personal, yet relatable subject matter.
They went on to perform for an hour and a half making people want to cry, hug, sing and dance in equal measure. When they returned for an encore they closed with an excellent version of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” where supports Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Willy Mason joined in.
It had all been one huge love-fest where punters felt included and a part of a community devoted to the indie folk cause. So what better way to leave the venue then with some pre-recorded music in the shape of The Beatles’ “Come Together”. How apt.
Mumford & Sons’ set list:
Roll Away Your Stone
I Will Wait
White Blank Page
Below My Feet
Little Lion Man
Lover Of The Light
Thistle & Weeds
Ghosts That We Knew
The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
Awake My Soul
Whispers In The Dark
Dust Bowl Dance
Where Are You Now
The Chain (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ set list:
Man On Fire
I Don’t Wanna Pray
40 Day Dream
That’s What’s Up
Let’s Get High
Originally published on 21 October 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/live-review-mumford-sons-edward-sharpe-the-magnetic-zeros-sydney-entertainment-centre-18-10-12
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