Mumford & Sons
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
April 3, 2016
I guess Marcus Mumford read our review of his last show.
When last we left our intrepid non-family unit (September 2013), they really didn't seem like they were having a very good time. Chalk it up to September swampiness or personal issues, but the band performed a set best described as "perfunctory" and seemed undeserving of the hype accompanying their meteoric rise to stardom on the backs of debut album Sigh No More and followup Babel.
Chalk me up as one of the doubters. Admittedly, their style isn't my cup of tea (that's an English thing, right?), but most debates over genre preferences can be chucked aside if the band plays a kickass live show. And loath as I am to admit it, Mumford & Sons played a damned entertaining gig at The Woodlands Sunday night.
They really couldn't have picked a better evening, with temperatures in the 60s and a light northerly breeze, a far cry from the suffocating heat and humidity of their last appearance. From the outset, it was apparent this was a different show. Marcus bantered more with the audience, inquiring as to the well-being of those in the back (shades of Neil Diamond in Hot August Night). He also hopped behind a drum kit (evidently two drum kits are your reward for selling almost seven million albums) and took off for a lap through the lawn during "Ditmas."
Sunday was the kickoff of the American leg of their Wilder Mind tour, and that album's featured tracks ("Snake Eyes," "The Wolf" and several others) didn't lay any eggs, sonically. I refer to this as the band's Coldplay period, only Mumford and company attempt to duplicate the earnestness with fewer goofy costumes.
Not counting keyboardist Ben Lovett's bowler and gold chain. Dude looked like Donnie Wahlberg circa 1990.
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They still get a lot of mileage out of that f-bomb in "Little Lion Man," though I do hope the parents in attendance were covering their precious babies' ears. The show was sold out, and the Pavilion was about as crowded as I can remember ever seeing it. The band knows what people like to hear, and they give it to them, loudly.
Because when you get right down to it, Mumford & Sons is pretty pure lizard-brain music. The major-key, quiet-LOUD-LOUDER dynamic elicits a visceral reaction. These aren't complicated songs, which can also be their weakness. When they launched into "I Will Wait" toward the end of the encore, I honestly thought they'd already played it (it was actually "The Cave," I think).
But again, this simplicity only adds to their appeal. The crowd sang along to nearly every song (even the new ones), which is a power I will never wield unless my latent mind control powers suddenly activate. Love them or hate them, Mumford & Sons kicked off the new sincerity era of MOR, and being at the forefront means their music is embedded in public consciousness. Combine that with a front man who's actually engaged with the audience and giving a shit, and the results...well, the crowd left satisfied, I'll leave it at that.
Personal Bias: Don't get the appeal; can't deny the results.
The Crowd: Less hipster beard, more middle management.
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Overheard In the Crowd: "We came straight from the Shell Houston Open."
Random Notebook Dump: "If those beam-splitters spell out 'Tanning Invitational,' this will be my new favorite band."
Little Lion Man
Below My Feet
Lover of the Light
Tompkins Square Park
Ghosts That We Knew
Awake My Soul
Roll Away Your Stone
Dust Bowl Dance
I'm On Fire (Bruce Springsteen cover)
I Will Wait