Gig review: Mumford & Son, First Direct Arena, Leeds

The alluring tonality of Winston Marshall’s 1972 Gibson ES-325 electric guitar, paired with flawlessly controlled vocals so unmistakably supplied by former Laura Marling drummer Marcus Mumford, were both evident from the outset as Mumford & Sons weaved through their opening song Snake Eyes from the bands third (and latest) album, Wilder Mind.

Mumford and Sons.
Mumford and Sons.

The City of Leeds has played occasional host to a great journey for the band - frontman Marcus explains that they first played here at the Packhorse pub, crazily, before rolling into the Cockpit in 2009 just as things really started kicking off with the buzz surrounding debut album Sigh No More. Since then they have headlined full-on arena tours and of course last years Leeds and Reading Festivals which seems incredible when you consider the speed at which they have so confidently risen to the top.

The niche they carved out for themselves meant people either loved or hated it – music driven by banjos and fiddles is never going to be universally adored, but somehow it was different to everything else on offer and exactly what the waiting public desired.

A departure from this well-known formula should seem a risky game, but Mumford & Sons on tonight’s evidence have taken several leaps into the best of directions.

The new material puts them more on par with the Kings Of Leons or Coldplays of the world, than anything like the Mumfords of old, and could certainly earn them a whole army of new faithfuls whilst hopefully not alienating too many others. In particular, stand out singles Believe and The Wolf point them towards a very interesting future indeed.

That’s not to say they should give up on their former glories. With a dance of a fiddle, a kick of the drum and the swing of a horn section, older material such as Lover of the Light really breathe into life.

When the band sing together in unison, everything sounds furthermore complete. For new song Hot Gates they do just this, huddled together as one aside a solitary microphone. The type of standout moment you wish you could take home as a lasting memory from every gig. Moments echoed as Marcus Mumford takes to the drum kit himself or later as he circles the edge of his adoring fans, a sea of saluting arms brandishing camera phones aloft.

There could have been a little more banter between songs, maybe even some back stories on the songs themselves. On stage energy was perhaps on occasion lacking. But take nothing away from the musicianship, especially on the grounds of personal taste, because this was live British music performed at it’s precise finest.