Mumford and Sons (See the complete slideshow here)
Desert Sky Pavilion
June 5, 2013
Love 'em or hate 'em, Mumford and Sons' popularity continues to grow. Last night's sold-out show at Desert Sky Pavilion puts the band in a league with some of the Valley's other huge indie shows from previous years--but was Mumford and Sons nearly as good as Radiohead or Arcade Fire?
Desert Sky Pavilion was quite the different scene from the band performing in a Tempe parking lot with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Old Crow Medicine Show for the Railroad Revival Tour. I hear the set-up was a bit of a mess, but it seems like most issues were sorted out last night (aside from parking, anyway).
Some guests reported waiting up to three hours to find a parking spot; I overheard security panicking about fans moving cones and creating spots of their own. The vibe inside Desert Sky Pavilion was quite different. The dapper indie crowd filled the lawn section almost immediately and lounged on chairs and beach blankets to enjoy the sounds on a day that was a little too hot.
The traffic jam folks missed out on an opening set from England's Michael Kiwanuka, who played a gorgeous folk set with his backing band. Kiwanuka's love of Jimi Hendrix wasn't limited to his Electric Lady Studios t-shirt; the band ended up giving one of Hendrix's songs the melodic treatment. (Read More: Michael Kiwanuka Wants to Keep the Vintage Music He Loves Alive)
Fans eagerly waited for Mumford and Sons, although rumors were circulating that they'd go on late thanks to the traffic jam fiasco. In the end they took the stage at a prompt 9:05 and opened with "Babel," immediately bringing fans to their feet to sing along.
The core four members of Mumford and Sons were joined by three trumpeters and two violinists for "Winter Winds," making the song sound richer with the added instrumentation. The audience politely sang along until "Little Lion Man," where they erupted into a chorus of cheers and enthusiastically danced and clapped along.
The band sounded best whenever it focused on vocal harmonies, which was the case for songs like "Below My Feet," "Broken Crown," and the majority of the encore.
Midway through Mumford and Sons' set, the festive overhead lights turned on and twinkled, adding to the Americana vibe this English band has maintained surprisingly well, in spite of vocalist Marcus Mumford's proclivity for f-bombs. The lights twinkled throughout the set, making the show feel like a period film set in a small town around the 4th of July. But perhaps that had more to do with the hot temperatures than anything else.
Fans rejoiced for "I Will Wait," which would have been a logical end to the band's main set, though a minimalist "Dust Bowl Dance" was performed before Marcus Mumford said his goodbyes and the band exited the stage.
The core four members of Mumford and Sons returned and crowded around a microphone. Mumford explained that fans needed to be as quiet as possible, because the group was going to try to sing the song around one microphone. The fans hushed and then immediately screamed as Mumford sang the opening lines to Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire." The vocals and accordion parts sounded fantastic, and the group gave the song the Mumford treatment by adding a banjo.
"This one's even quieter than the last one," Mumford said before "My Love Don't Fade Away," "so you've really got to shut the fuck up. If you think it's your moment to shine, it isn't." It was another showcase for the band's stunning vocal harmonies, with nothing but an acoustic guitar.
The singer thanked the crowd for letting the band do its single microphone "experiment," and performed mega hit "The Cave" to fans that were all too eager to sing their hearts out once more.
The show clocked in right around an hour and 30 minutes, and aside from the parking and heat inconveniences it was a good set. I fall somewhere between the Mumford love and hate camps, but I may end up a fan after last night's show. The band sounded great live -- the vocal harmonies really stood out, and after a few songs, I stopped joking to myself about wanting to hear "Ho Hey."
For more photos and the setlist, click through to page 3.
Setlist: Babel Roll Away Your Stone Winter Winds White Blank Page Below My Feet Little Lion Man Timshel Lover of the Light Broken Crown Ghosts That We Knew Holland Road Awake My Soul I Will Wait Dust Bowl Dance
Encore: I'm on Fire (Bruce Springsteen cover) Reminder The Cave
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Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Mumford and Sons at Desert Sky Pavilion. Personal Bias: I like "The Cave;" that's about it. The Crowd: Lots of hipsters, though seeing a guy in overalls made my night. Overheard in the Crowd: "Their songs are like 10 minutes long," during Michael Kiwanuka's set. Random Notebook Dump: Laying on the horn while nobody in the parking lot is moving doesn't accomplish anything. One More Thing: What was the random snare drum for, decoration?