Saturday was a wonderful day spent in Monterey, where Mumford & Sons put on their sixth of seven world-wide music festivals. It was my first time up in Monterey and I thoroughly enjoyed being in that little touristy beachy town; I will save those details for another post.
This was apparently an “intimate evening,” kept “small” so that everyone could really enjoy themselves. Well, “small” meant a sold-out 10,000 capacity for the Monterey Fairgrounds. Might I also add that it was sold out within one week of the show being announced? These guys are big.
This is the third time I have seen Mumford & Sons live. The first time I saw them was at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in May 2010. It was one of their earlier shows in the United States, they were still newer to the music scene here. The TLA’s capacity is a mere 1000, compared to the 10,000 fans Mumford serenaded on Friday. I count myself lucky to have been at that first performance, just as they were starting to become known. There was a magic about that one that can only be found as a band is first reaching stardom. The four of them were so enthralled by the crowd’s excitement that they were getting emotional about it at times. They were still working out kinks and learning things that you can only learn after performing live many, many times. It wasn’t the best presented show, but the music was spot on.
The music was still spot on during their performance on Saturday night.
After a long day of openers on two stages who included Slow Club, Haim, Apache Relay, Two Gallants, Grouplove, Gogol Bordello, and The Very Best (who actually ended the festival after Mumford & Sons), Mumford took the main stage at 8:50pm. One of the (many) wonderful things about this festival is that every show started on time. Gogol Bordello even started a few minutes early. I have a feeling many follow up Music Mondays will include reviews of Slow Club, Apache Relay, and Gogol Boredello. I’d heard of the first and the last before, but Apache Relay was new to me- and as they are from Nashville and have that sort of vibe, I thoroughly enjoyed them as well.
Mumford opened with a song from their yet to be released new album Babel (September 24th you can’t come soon enough!)- Lovers’ Eyes. They immediately followed with the crowd pleaser that is Little Lion Man (language in the chorus). This was Mumford & Son’s debut song from their first album, “Sigh No More,” in 2009. It was nominated for the 2011 Best Rock Song Grammy (though it lost out to Neil Young’s “Angry World.”) It hit prime positions on music charts in 10 different countries, including #1 for US Alternative Songs.
Throughout the show they played a wonderful mix of old and new songs and did it all with the vibrancy and tenacity that I’ve come to see in them time and time again. They also could not have closed out the set any better. After initially ending with Dust Bowl Dance (from their first album), they walked off the stage and then came back for the obligatory encore. Opening the encore with Winter Winds got the crowd going wild (again). And then came the best song of the night (sure, I’m biased)- The Cave. What a wonderful, beautiful song. It has long been my favorite from “Sigh No More.” They closed out the night by bringing all of the day’s musicians onto the stage to play The Weight by The Band. There was no better song to end this epic show with. No. Better. Song. As Levon Helm of The Band passed away in April of this year, I’ve been hearing his music more and more in the circle of artists that I enjoy. Some of you may remember my loving rant posts about seeing Glen Hansard in June. He ended his show with two songs by The Band, in honor of Levon Helm. This is a perfect song for a collaboration of artists, and Mumford & company played it beautifully on Saturday night.
One characteristic that draws me to Mumford & Sons is their authenticity. They are really doing this because they love it. They write music and perform it for the fans out of sheer enjoyment. They seem to have no ulterior motives. Let me put it this way- I actually left for 10 minutes or so during one of the other bands, I just walked around and explored the fairgrounds (and, yes, took advantage of smaller lines for the bathrooms). That is not something I do. Music is to be enjoyed. But I left during one of the bands because I was frustrated with their stage presence. The content of their songs and their chatter between them had an air of assumed authority. Sure they were enjoying playing their music, but they (to me) also seemed to be enjoying (to a fault) the fact that all eyes were on them. And that it somehow made them better than the rest of us.
For all the talent and fame that Mumford & Sons has, they exude no air of assumed authority. They never appear to believe that they are better than anyone they are playing their music for. They are playing it to share it. That is what should be done. That is one of the many reasons I follow this band.
Were you there in Monterey also? Let me know your thoughts! If you are reading this and have not listened to Mumford & Sons before, I’d love to know your initial reaction to their music- here is the official audio for their new single “I Will Wait,” which will be found on their album “Babel” to be released on September 24th. Enjoy!