Marcus and co. get by – and then some – with a little help from their friends, offering punters the chance to buy one festival and get one free.
Marcus Mumford wants you to know that he’s a proper rock star. At one point tonight he calls out to the sprawling, dense audience at the Obelisk Arena, the main stage at Latitude, with a diss aimed at those who’ve opted to rest their weary bones on the seats at the back of the field. “These motherfuckers that are sat down,” he bellows. “These are the ones that have been at Waitrose all day.”
Luckily Mumford & Sons haven’t come to indulge their Anarcho-punk leanings at this genteel Suffolk event, which does actually boast an onsite branch of the well-to-do supermarket. Instead they’ve commandeered parts of Saturday’s line-up, choosing some of the artists across various stages. It’s a tribute to Stopover, the band’s rolling festival held in lesser-toured locations such as Walla Walla in Washington and Aviemore in Scotland, and means they’ve invited the likes of Baaba Maal, Leon Bridges, Maggie Rogers and Lucy Rose to Latitude. It all falls under the banner ‘Gentleman of the Road’, the name that Mumfords use to organise Stopover, and indeed a banner bearing that name hangs over the Arena as set opener ‘Snake Eyes’ swells the stage.
The track is taken from ‘Wilder Mind’, the album that saw the folk band – shock, horror! – go electric in 2015. It’s immediately followed by ‘Little Lion Man’, one of the most memorable banjo hoedowns from their debut record ‘Sigh No More’, a move that only hints at the broad musical palette Mumford and co. will explore for Latitude’s aural pleasure this evening.
The mid-section of the show features Baaba Maal, the Senegalese musician who appeared on ‘Joannesburg’, the five-track EP that, last year, combined the band’s new stadium rock sound with West African music. The musicians are joined, too, by The Very Best, the London/Malawi duo who also appeared on the ‘Joannesburg’ EP (the record could hint at the sound of the band’s upcoming album). “Today is all about being together,” Marcus explains, “and we were together with these motherfuckers in Africa.” Maal has an exceptional voice, his tremulous, reedy pitch cutting through the Mumfords’ stadium bombast. It’s easy to understand why he’s a superstar back home.
After that, it’s hardly business as usual, with Marcus continuing to sing as he runs out deep into the crowd, before he gets behind the drum kit to batter his way through ‘Dust Bowl Dance’. For the finale the band invites Maal, Bridges, Rogers and Rose onstage for a rendition of The Beatles’ ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, a supermarket sweep of musicians closing the show in fittingly jubilant, energetic fashion.