Dingwalls, London, 22nd February
Nights at Communion, the club collective started by Mumford’s [b]Ben Lovett[/b], are always pretty impressive, but tonight the ante has definitely been upped. Scottish singer [b]Rachel Sermanni[/b] gets the ball rolling with her wide-eyed acoustica, opening with the thunderous ‘The Fog’, which sails above her slightly more whimsical material. [b]Marcus Foster[/b]’s supersonic soul stylings bring a dose of gravel-voiced sophistication and radio-friendly grit to Dingwalls, the immense [b]‘Shadows Of The City’[/b] providing a fitting backdrop of drama for the arrival of [a]Anna Calvi[/a].
As demon-doll blonde ringlets drip over her shoulders, Anna cuts a vivid dash in the red satin stage-wear which is fast becoming iconic. Piling into the triumphant [b]‘Blackout’[/b], oozing guitar pop gloss as well as chamber rock theatricality, her swift ascent to acclaim is justified in four minutes flat.
The gender-shifting brouhaha of [b]‘I’ll Be Your Man’[/b] and slinky [b]‘Suzanne And I’[/b] smoulder with intensity, their titular [a]Leonard Cohen[/a] nods all the more evident when the songs are played one after the other. Coaxing magnificent noise out of her guitar during an ornate [b]‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’[/b], she steers clear of fret-wanking yet leaves no-one in the packed room uncertain of her skills.
[a]Mumford & Sons[/a] last played Dingwalls over two years ago, and to say that they’re happy to return would be something of an understatement. “[i]Without being too much of a sissy, this is quite a wonderfully emotional evening for us[/i],” beams Marcus Mumford. “[i]We’ve had a weird couple of weeks but this is by far and away the highlight[/i].” They might have just won a Brit and jammed with [a]Bob Dylan[/a] at the Grammys, but for these Londoners nothing beats belting out heroic slabs of exhilaration in a sweaty, low-ceilinged dive in the city they call home.
Oldies such as [b]‘The Cave’[/b] and [b]‘Awake My Soul’[/b] are met with fittingly rapturous applause and keyboardist Ben enthusiastically whips his hair back and forth in a brassed-up [b]‘Lover Of The Light’[/b], but it’s the new material that’s most interesting, giving our palates a possible taste of album number two.
Marcus admits that most of the tracks aren’t quite finished, yet there’s obvious greatness in the rolling belter [b]‘Below My Feet’[/b], which is awash with trademark religious imagery and stirring talk of flesh and desire. The plaintive reverie of [b]‘Walk Slow’[/b] is equally weighty, with Marcus gruffly intoning lines such as: “There’s no drink or drug I’ve tried, to rid the curse of these lovers’ eyes”. Unfinished? It all sounds like a job well done to us, lads.