There are few bands I would go out of my way to see. On Wednesday, September 4, I trekked from downtown Minneapolis via the 94 bus to downtown St. Paul for Mumford & Sons, and then back (alone). Mumford & Sons are able to do something on the stage that you simply cannot get from listening to your iTunes. Wandering through both downtowns late at night (sorry, Mom) was a small price to pay.
The Xcel Center was the fifth stop of the “Full English Tour,” where Mumford & Sons have been selling out sizeable venues in the U.S. with their second album, Babel (2012). The quartet had some more company on stage with them since I last saw them in Kansas City two years ago when they were showing off their golden-boy debut album Sigh No More—three wood and three brass instruments as backup. The show opened with the slower-starting song (“Lover’s Eyes”?) and remained dark (except for shadows) for a good while, only to do a 180 when the chorus hit and the lights came blazing on.
The entire show was a visually impressive display—between the light show and multi-dimensional screen in sepia (among other effects), it felt like we were on set of one of their videos. The ceiling was draped with strings of lights, which were first lit for “Little Lion Man” and matched their video. When it came to “Lover of the Light,” Mumford & Sons basked in their folk-rock glory (which isn’t to say they didn’t do that for the rest of their set). The production value never came off as gimmicky. The light show was tailored to each song and matched the feel. And even though the Xcel Energy Center was crawling with fans, Mumford & Sons were able to invoke a sense of intimacy. (An acoustic version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” on a platform in the middle of the crowd didn’t hurt.)
Not only that, but Mumford & Sons have a way of connecting to an audience. Sure, most musicians will coo over a city to make nice with the crowd. But when Mumford & Sons talk about how they had been raving about the Twin Cities earlier in the day and throw out a Mighty Duck reference (even dedicating a song to the Mighty Ducks), I couldn’t help but become convinced by their genuine nature. By an applause-o-meter, it became clear that the majority of the audience had never been to one of their shows. They were humbled, it seemed, and Marcus Mumford dedicated the next song to the “[Mumford & Sons] virgins” with a laugh.
Near the end of the show, Mumford & Sons brought out opening acts The Vaccines and Bear’s Den for a group rendition of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” After what seemed like two encores, the two-hour show finally ended, seemingly begrudgingly, with “The Cave.” When I got home (safely), I turned on their music and replayed the concert in my head—a sign of a great concert. Now the music, which I already loved, is even more loveable and three-dimensional.
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.