Quick Concert Review: Mumford and Sons

Upon first listen it would be totally understandable to assume that Mumford & Sons had formed in Nashville or some other countrified locale where it would be normal to see a group of musicians playing standing bass, piano, drums, acoustic guitar, and banjo. There is definitely a kinship to folk and bluegrass in this London-based band’s DNA, but upon closer listens their U.K. roots are revealed, albeit in ways that sound more Irish than English (Ex: the beginning chords on Winter Winds or Roll Away Your Stone.  Lush layered harmonic vocals occasionally hint at that accent we know and love from across the Pond, but if you stumbled across a Mumford song in a stylish sequel to O Brother, Where Art Thou? you wouldn’t be surprised.


Vocalized harmony is a big part of Mumford’s performance, and on occasion it is used to build upon sparse instrumentation towards roaring crescendos. As they harmonized, seemingly effortlessly, on top of perfectly executed tempo and key changes, it became obvious that something special was occurring on stage. Even before their musicality wowed the crowd, though, it was apparent that Mumford’s first-ever performance in Washington, DC was an eagerly anticipated one. The electricity in the room was palpable, and early in the set the band commented that they had heard a lot about “this city and the 9:30 Club, and it was all proving to be true.”  For the purposes of theme, let’s assume that what they had heard was positive.

There aren’t many acts I’ve seen that have the stuff required to successfully pull off shows at venues like 9:30 Club as well as a relatively intimate outdoor venue like Wolf Trap, but Mumford is definitely one that belongs in that grouping, (along with acts like Chris Isaak and Wilco). That stuff includes the ability to bring the audience to a fever-pitch as well as to form an instant emotional connection. It’s one thing to simply gin a crowd up and get ‘em rowdy….it’s another where the audience’s undivided attention is revealed by their absolute silence during mid-song breaks in the music. Those moments don’t occur too frequently at 9:30 Club, but the pregnant pause was deployed on more than one occasion last night, and surely tingled a few spines.

Even without any witty banter between songs, our time with the band flew by all-too-quickly. Would that they had more songs to play, because a frenzied sold-out crowd of a strangely indeterminate composition was certainly left wanting more after a tight and emotive set. I feel fortunate to have witnessed the show (thanks PF!) and already cannot wait for their next record / tour.


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