Friday, February 8, 2013

Lovers of the Light

It's hard to imagine that, only three short years ago, Mumford and Sons was struggling to finance their own recordings, borrowing instruments if they could, trekking around small venues in the UK and US. Fast forward to Wednesday night, where even an inaudible word uttered under Marcus Mumford's breath could silence a crown of 18,000 hipsters. 

Admittedly nervous of the obvious challenges facing a predominantly bluegrass/folk band in such a massive space, it's the understatement of the century to say that I was pleasantly surprised. While the seating capacity is almost identical to New York City's famous MSG, I found the venue exceptionally and simultaneously awe-inspiring and intimate. On second thought, maybe that was just Marcus. Hmm. TBD. 

Similar to my views on the previews before a movie, I hate missing the opening acts. I've stumbled upon some amazing bands that way (I also feel badly for the openers playing to half empty stadiums). Last night's openers, however, felt no shortage of love from Mumford's loyal subjects, although my affection was less abundant. Having seen Ben Howard in the cozy Cake Shop-esque setting of New York's Webster Hall, I was equally concerned that his grandeur would be lost amongst the bright lights of Brooklyn. Au contraire mon ami. My only complaint was that his set was entirely too short, singing a few familiars to start, introducing one new song and finishing with fan-favorite "Only Love." While a cynic may be tempted to attribute Ben's spell upon the crowd to the state-of-the-art acoustics of the Barclays, I assure you The Felice Brothers dispelled that theory with the first strums of their guitars. Oh well. I was grateful for the opportunity to grab a square from L&B's and another Heineken. 

As one may expect, although the "everybody's doing it" mentality all but precludes my agitation for the practice, Mumford and Sons took the stage just after 10pm. Fine by me, as the proceeding 105 minutes were, well, life-changing. The band played "Babel," "I Will Wait" and "Lover of the Light" early on, bringing each of the 18,000 concert-goers to their leather-booted feet. Other notables include the instrumental leading up to "Thistle & Weeds," "Ghosts That We Knew," "Awake My Soul," "Below My Feet," and, of course, "Little Lion Man." When the boys were up, the energy was almost uncontainable. When they were down, you could hear a pin drop. Marcus Mumford exudes rock and roll stature in his every move -- rotating instruments with ease and pulling out his ear pieces in one swift, hasty movement just before reaching a song's poignant moment. Perhaps it is this almost supernatural command over the crowd that has managed to carry the boys from anonymity to the world's biggest selling rock band in record time. 

A final comment on the visuals. Even the most jaded New Yorker from Times Square would have been impressed with the lights strung across the stadium, changing color per song in perfect sync. The vibrant stage complimented the four stark, documentary-style black and white jumbo screens directly above it. The boys' seamless transition into a straight row by the end of almost every song illustrated a chilling "united we stand" motif. After all, the other boys deserve some face time too. 

The icing on the cake were Marcus' praises of New York crowds, admitting that he only has one friend in New York. I find that hard to believe, but on the off-chance that it's true (and that Marcus Mumford is reading), I know where they keep the good pizza. (Wink wink). Mumford and Sons is playing the Barclays again this coming Tuesday ... ya know, if you happen to have a first-born child to spare on a ticket. 

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