With Folk Roots And Fireworks, Mumford & Sons’ Rocking Reinvention Faces The Arena Test

Capital FM Arena, Nottingham
November 28, 2015

You used to know what to expect from a Mumford & Sons show. A rapidly plucked banjo, a fiddle led hoedown, perhaps a fashionable waistcoat or two. Guitar-heavy third album ‘Wilder Mind’ tore up those rules and preconceptions and, tonight, as rollicking oldie ‘Dust Bowl Dance’ peaks with a curtain of pyrotechnics and Marcus Mumford smashing his drum kit to pieces, the band’s delight in their rocking reinvention is apparent. Whether their arena-filling audiences agree is the tour’s big test.

Opening their first UK jaunt since the album’s release, Mumford & Sons are back in the familiar surroundings of Nottingham’s vast Capital FM Arena, strung to the rafters with their winged Gentlemen Of The Road banners. ‘Snake Eyes’ is a steadily building opener, electric guitars and keyboards to the fore, but not one that will throw tonight’s more casual fans unduly. Just in case, Mumford’s acoustic and Winston Marshall’s banjo come straight out and ‘Little Lion Man’ reassures this rowdy Saturday night crowd that they’ve come to see the right band.

While big old favourites ‘The Cave’ and ‘I Will Wait’ vibrate the arena with the stomping feet of ten thousand fans, a few of the atmospheric new songs (‘Just Smoke’, ‘Monster’) send the thirsty to the bar. Other ‘Wilder Mind’ tunes fare better though; the mass lighter waving to ‘Believe’ and ‘Tompkins Square Park’ threatens the globe’s remaining reserves of fossil fuel.

For an encore, the quartet dig back to their London club roots, sprinting to a tiny stage within the crowd for harmonised, one mic takes on ‘Cold Arms’ and ‘Timshel’, punctuated by drunken declarations of love from their merrier fans, much to Mumford’s cheerful annoyance (“Shut the fuck up!”). Afterwards, the crowd is noticeably sparser, but its no reflection on the passion and enthusiasm that the band are greeted with throughout – after two full hours, it’s no surprise that not everyone has the stamina to stick around for the main stage finale of ‘Hot Gates’ and ‘The Wolf’. And those that stuck it out will declare Mumford’s arena test well and truly passed.

Mumford & Sons played:
‘Snake Eyes’
‘Little Lion Man’
‘Just Smoke’
‘Awake My Soul’
‘Believe’
‘Tompkins Square Park’
‘Love Of The Light’
‘Thistle & Weeds’
‘Ghosts That We Knew’
‘Only Love’
‘The Cave’
‘Roll Away Your Stone’
‘Monster’
‘Broad Shouldered Beasts’
‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’
‘I Will Wait’
‘Ditmas’
‘Dust Bowl Dance’
‘Cold Arms (acoustic)’
‘Timshel (acoustic)’
‘Hot Gates’
‘The Wolf’