Review Panel: Mumford and Sons, Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Image Courtesy of C Murray

Mumford and Sons supported by Matt Corby and Fanfarlo
3rd August, Enmore Theatre

Evan: To say that this has been a phenomenal year for Mumford and Sons would be an understatement. From winning triple j’s Hottest 100 to headlining just about every festival on the face of the planet one has to wonder what’s next for the London folksters. In fact given the global domination of Mumford and Sons we were pretty lucky to catch them at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre – by rights they should be playing venues twice this size.

KTBell: Having only seen Mumford and Sons at Laneway Festival in January and very swiftly developing quite an appreciate for their entire album Sigh No More and coming off the back of seeing Laura Marling with stealth guest Marcus Mumford, I was pumped for an amazing show.

Evan: The first artist to grace the Enmore’s stage was Timber and Steel favourite Matt Corby. The last time I had seen Corby was at the intimate Communion night in January of this year where the crowd was transported to a higher plain by his angelic voice and ethereal guitars. Corby’s Enmore set just as good, sweeping through the half filled room and transfixing those that were watching. But I do feel that much of the magic of Matt Corby’s set was lost in the expanse of the Enmore and that he is better suited to smaller rooms and smaller audiences. “My False” is still a magnificent song though which I am very glad he played.

KTBell: I’m going to have a league of Matt Corby fans hating me. While I am whole heartedly impressed with Matt’s progress from Idol fame to now make it as a talented recording artist in his own right, I was looking forward to ‘discovering’ him at this gig. Evan is right, Matt’s style is incredibly ethereal and fantastically well done at that – but I discovered, I’m not much of an ethereal style fan. It’s not to say I disliked the set, it just didn’t speak to me. I do agree with Evan that potentially Matt and the band were lost on a large stage in a large room and I look forward to listening to the new album in a different setting to gain a full appreciation for the skill and musicality Matt brings to the genre. Having said that, the fans who were front and centre were quite clearly enthralled with the performance.

Evan: The second support for the evening were UK-via-Sweden band Fanfarlo who took to the stage to a rapturous applause probably off the back of their positive Splendour reviews. Part Arcade Fire, part Mumford and Sons, Fanfarlo proved to be the perfect lead in to the main act with a high energy, multi-instrumental set that had the crowd up and dancing almost from the get go. While the set did become a little samey towards the end (which may have been a result of the crowds growing anticipation for the headliners) but overall the performance was well received.

KTBell: Their multi-instrumentation was incredibly impressive. Their set had a couple of highlights, but for me, they were good, but not amazing. Their violinist occasionally reminded me of the Bridezilla girls in her flowing movement and sensual involvement in her performance. I can see the huge potential for their future, and I look forward to seeing some variety from them at future performances.

Evan: There’s a reason “Sigh No More” is the first track on the album of the same name – it’s an absolutely killer opening song. As soon as Mumford and Sons entered the stage they had the crowd under their control. Critics may bemoan the fact that many of the bands song follow the same start-slow-and-build-to-a-hoedown formula but this is exactly what makes them such a great live band. The fact that the audience is dancing wildly by the end of each piece of music must mean they’re onto something good.

KTBell: For me, this gig, in comparison to the previous night’s, shows how much difference an audience can make. As we waited eagerly for the Mumford boys to take the stage, it became apparent the crowd was an eclectic mix of fans. In chatting to the people around me, there were some who were die hard fans and others who obviously followed the Triple J hottest 100 rise to fame. Fans come in all shapes, sizes and with different tastes and preferences, so I don’t begrudge anyone their way of appreciating music, but it didn’t take long to realise this was going to be a rowdy crowd and a massive performance. Opening with title song “Sigh No More” was incredibly appropriate and was met with great enthusiasm. The crowd moved, danced, jumped, shouted, cheered and sang as one through the vast majority of the show.

Evan: I was surprised that Mumford and Sons chose to insert Hottest 100 winner “Little Lion Man” into the middle of the set when most bands would save their biggest single for the closer. But it meant that occasional fans got their fix early and were then treated to the rest of the band’s repertoire without the distraction of wondering when they were going to play the one track they knew. It also built the energy in the crowd (not that it was really needed) and filled the Enmore with 2,000 profanity filled voices.

KTBell: I expected an amazing performance and I was not disappointed by the lads. Visually, I am always intrigued that they present themselves in a straight line across the front of the stage – no one is any more important than the rest in this format and it works beautifully for their interaction and banter between songs. Marcus commented that they enjoy playing to Australian audiences, and judging by the grins creeping across their faces as the entire crowd sang along word for word to many of their songs, including the famed “Little Lion Man”, that despite selling out the Enmore for successive concerts, they still didn’t quite expect the reception we provided.

Evan: New material for a band as hard-touring as Mumford and Sons is always an unexpected surprise. For most artists the road is not the most conducive environment for creativity (The Waifs always complain that half of their songs are about being on the road), however the opposite seems true for the Mumford boys. Marcus admitted to the audience that one of their new songs had been written the week prior in Melbourne before launching into a track which sounded practiced and polished. I’m so excited about the prospect of a new album sometime in the near future.

KTBell: One absolute highlight was the bands decision to play a new track for the crowd. Marcus explained that in the past they had tested out new songs at live gigs, which were traditionally much, much smaller than that at the Enmore. He also revealed that the song in question was written in Melbourne only weeks before, and if we didn’t like it, well it wouldn’t go on to the next album. Unsurprisingly the mention of a new album sent the audience wild with cheers. While I don’t recall the name of the song, it displayed all the charm and melody of the ballads we’ve come to know and love from Mumford and Sons. The sheer elation in response by the audience should see this Aussie gem make it to the new album, well, we can hope.

Evan: Probably my highlight of the night was the band’s rendition of “Roll Away Your Stone” which, much like their Splendour performance the weekend before, featured members of Australian bands like Boy & Bear and The Middle East invade the stage and join the hoedown. Marcus Mumford endeared himself to the audience when he likened touring to “collecting new friends around the world” – the respect these guys show for their fellow artists is absolutely tangible. Finishing the set with an encore that included popular single “The Cave” was always going to be a popular choice and they definitely left the audience feeling uplifted and absolutely satisfied.

KTBell: Amazingly, once the crowd had yelled, cheered, stamped and whistled for an Encore and the boys came back out to play two last songs, I was astounded to realise as they started their last song of the night that “The Cave” had not featured in their main set, and lo and behold, that it was the final song of the night. It is testament to the engaging performance and entertainment that they deliver, that one of my favourite songs could be skipped from the main set and go unnoticed so as to end on a crescendo. It also proves that they are more than a one hit wonder band, with one of our near by fellow audience members declaring at the start of every song (including the new one no one had heard before) “This is my FAVourite”, it’s quite clear the Mumford style will be treating audiences for some time yet.

Evan: I’m so lucky to have seen Mumford and Sons twice this year and having them at the Enmore, rather than a festival, was really a treat. Given the obvious love they have for Australian audiences I’m sure we’ll see them again before too long.

KTBell: If a concert’s success can be measured in merchandise sales, this one rocked as I walked out with a Sigh No More singlet as well as Mumford and Sons branded t-shirt, hat and scarf and a desire for more Mumford as soon as possible. And with sell out crowds who lap up each and every show, they’re sure to be a fixture on the Summer Festival rounds.

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