Mumford & Sons, The Luminaire, London
Monday 28 July 2008
West London's latest folk movement has already been compared by some to the Laurel Canyon scene of the Sixties and early Seventies. The Thames Valley scene, if you like. But if Laura Marling's fragile confessionals make her the Joni Mitchell, and Noah and the Whale are the soon-to-be over-exposed Eagles, then Mumford and Sons may be the slow-burning super-group, the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Marcus Mumford, Mumford and Sons' frontman, doubles as Marling's drummer and he and his band are close friends with Noah and the Whale, so this sell-out show to launch his band's debut EP Lend Me Your Eyes is well attended by their fellow folkies. Indeed, the magnificent Marling performs three songs as a support act.
Like many others, Mumford and Sons seem to have studied Arcade Fire closely. Mumford has Win Butler's haircut and waistcoat, while the opening number, "Sigh No More", is driven by a familiar-sounding organ. Their four-way harmonies and mandolin, however, echo Beirut – also hot in 2007. Mumford and Sons' sound only adds up to the sum of their influences, but it's lovely nonetheless.
The songs largely follow a formula: Mumford begins with his guitar, then Winston Marshall on banjo, Ben Lovett (aka Ben Lovett Bloody Loves It) on keys and Ted Dwayne on double bass, before Mumford starts on the kick drum.
"Awake My Soul" grows into a rollicking bluegrass boogie, which ends too soon, "Liar" is a patiently building ballad, which shows off Mumford's powerful vocal and recalls the yearning keen of Damien Rice. "Little Lion Man", the band's next release, has a catchy, profane refrain.
An encore, "Dust Bowl Dance", veers away from the formula into a touch of electric psychedelia.
Mumford and Sons are spared the tweeness that afflicts Noah and the Whale by being a little more manly, though their muscular sound is all the richer for the introduction of backing singer Holly Pearson and a string trio.
Making his thanks at the end of the night, Mumford gets a little emotional. But he's not the only one; Mumford and Sons have a knack for playing that most vital of instruments, the heartstrings.
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