Mumford & Sons’ Reading Headline Set: That Flag, Those Hats and Three Other Big Talking Points

It was a controversial booking, but also once that made sense: Mumford & Sons are a massive band – one of the few around big enough to headline Reading & Leeds – and with their third album, ‘Wilder Mind’, the group went in a rockier direction, working with producers James Ford and The National’s Aaron Dessner on a sound more familiar to the traditional Reading & Leeds crowd. For a band that like to tick off achievements in their career, they were also gagging to secure the booking – it meant everything to them to be offered the headline spot and they repeatedly mentioned it throughout their set. But there were plenty of other talking points…

1. They didn’t get bottled
This might sound like a ridiculous thing to say, but older Reading crowds have been hostile to what they perceive to be outsider acts. In previous years, 50 Cent, Kevin Rowland and Daphne And Celeste were showered with bottles and, in the run up to Reading 2015, there was talk of Marcus and his chums being on the end of a similar battering. Didn’t happen.

2. They put distance between themselves and their new songs
This was quickly noticeable. Although they opened with a ‘Wilder Mind’ song, ‘Snake Eyes’, they proceeded to play it safe by rattling through three old songs – ‘I Will Wait’, ‘Little Lion Man’ and ‘Below My Feet’ – before almost asking permission to play the title track from ‘Wilder Mind’. And throughout the rest of their set, both the energy of the band and the crowd was with their older material. What does an outfit say, too? With ‘Wilder Mind’, they re-styled themselves in leather jackets, much to the mirth of the press. Tonight, the hillbilly look was partially back – hats and all.

3. They’re touring in December
Most likely, contractual obligations ensured that Mumford & Sons couldn’t announce their winter tour until after tickets were sold for Reading And Leeds. So they announced it on-stage, to the delight of fans who couldn’t make it to the festival. Social media went nuts.

4. They didn’t do the whole ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ thing and bring on loads of pals
Usual collaborators like Tom Hobden, ex-Noah And The Whale, were present, but anyone expecting a full-on hoedown as an encore – a bit like they did at Glastonbury in 2013 and at various Gentlemen Of The Road Stopovers – were left disappointed. They played it Kanye-like – lean and simple. And that also means they didn’t blow most of their fee on pyrotechnics like The Darkness reportedly did back in 2004. Largely, their performance was frills-free.

5. Marcus lost a bet and played with a Plymouth Argyle flag on his kick drum
Marcus flips around on stage, playing acoustic guitar, electric and sometimes drums. Eagle-eyed fans will have noticed his bass drum drapped in a Plymouth Argyle flag, apparently placed there after he lost a bet with a member of Bastille. Both are members of a pop-star What’s App group focusing on football.