Live Review: Mumford & Sons/Anna Calvi

Dingwalls, London, 22nd February

Pic: PA
Nights at Communion, the club collective started by Mumford’s Ben Lovett, are always pretty impressive, but tonight the ante has definitely been upped. Scottish singer Rachel Sermanni gets the ball rolling with her wide-eyed acoustica, opening with the thunderous ‘The Fog’, which sails above her slightly more whimsical material. Marcus Foster’s supersonic soul stylings bring a dose of gravel-voiced sophistication and radio-friendly grit to Dingwalls, the immense ‘Shadows Of The City’ providing a fitting backdrop of drama for the arrival of Anna Calvi.

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 ‘Blackout’, 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 ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ and slinky ‘Suzanne And I’ smoulder with intensity, their titular Leonard Cohen nods all the more evident when the songs are played one after the other. Coaxing magnificent noise out of her guitar during an ornate ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’, she steers clear of fret-wanking yet leaves no-one in the packed room uncertain of her skills.

Mumford and Sons last played Dingwalls over two years ago, and to say that they’re happy to return would be something of an understatement. “Without being too much of a sissy, this is quite a wonderfully emotional evening for us,” beams Marcus Mumford. “We’ve had a weird couple of weeks but this is by far and away the highlight.” They might have just won a Brit and jammed with Bob Dylan 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 ‘The Cave’ and ‘Awake My Soul’ are met with fittingly rapturous applause and keyboardist Ben enthusiastically whips his hair back and forth in a brassed-up ‘Lover Of The Light’, 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 ‘Below My Feet’, which is awash with trademark religious imagery and stirring talk of flesh and desire. The plaintive reverie of ‘Walk Slow’ 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.

Leonie Cooper
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