Mumford and Sons (with Dawes) at Newcastle Metro Arena
This was a really big deal tonight as it was the first night of Mumford and Sons latest tour and the Metro Arena had completely sold out (10,000 capacity!) weeks in advance leading to several, out of town ticket tout lurking in the shadows on the way to the venue.
As we made our way to our seats I realised that there was a comedy Dinosaur doing magic tricks, on a mini-stage in the middle of the auditorium. The bobble hat wearing youth who was the ‘stooge’ couldn’t have looked more disinterested if he’d been asleep, and the only people taking any notice were laughing ‘at’ the magician and not ‘with’ him.
The real support act; Dawes from LA have a Neil Young influenced West Coast sound and their first song, If I wanted Someone set the scene nicely with some pretty neat piano/organ and fuzzy guitars complimenting Taylor Goldsmith’s golden voice.
The quartet have been based in London all year and interspersed appearances at every Festival this side of the Rio Grande with regular mid-week slots all over the Capital; picking up rave reviews all the way.
A Little Bit of Everything was well received by the crowd but it was nothing compared to the roar of approval when Marcus Mumford provided harmonies and drum (singular) accompaniment for When My Time Comes. The short set ended on a sour note (for me) as for some bizarre, self-indulgent reason, Dawes decided to pad out Peace in the Valley with each member (including the drummer and bass player!) providing interminable solos, only adding to the crowds growing impatience.
Although Dawes seemed an odd choice as support for a Folk Rock band on the brink of World domination; I’ll definitely go to see them when they return to Newcastle at a more intimate venue.
The roar from the crowd as Mumford & Sons appeared from behind four huge flags was only matched by the crescendo that the band produced with opening song; Babel that took on a whole new life when played live.
As they crashed through the next couple of songs, with the pounding of Marcus Mumford’s bass drum being something of a heartbeat for the band and audience alike; I thought we were in for a fantastic concert but, either the Mumfords ran out of steam or they just wanted to get full value out of their War of the Worlds light-show but every song in the next hour became a Nirvanaesque quiet-quiet-noisy-quiet-noisy-quiet adaptation of their well crafted and easy on the ears album tracks, leaving their fans visibly confused. The 10,000 fans had come to Paaarrty, but every time they began jumping around the song would retreat behind a laser show or the string quartet would spring into action making po-going difficult.
One song that was kept in tact and appeared to be something of a ‘signature tune;’ Little Lion Man had the crowd singing along to the chorus with gusto(profanity included) as they moshed like it was 1977 all over again; as Marcus spat the words out with passion and a rare intensity.
Something else that really annoyed me; was the length of time it took between every single song to change instruments; losing whatever momentum they’d created and leaving their fans to play with their mobile phones.
This happened all night, but the changeover before Lover of the Light, when Marcus had to make his way up two risers to play the drums must have taken two full minutes; with no one having the sense to keep the fans engaged (where was the magician when you needed him?). The song itself was great; but it took a minute or so for the crowd to warm up again; which is an eternity at a concert like this.
In fairness Mumford and Son’s harmonies and arrangements were so good, groups with a lot more miles under the belt would be proud of them; but there still seemed to be something missing; for all the brouhaha that was constantly going on.
When Marcus; eventually stood in a white spotlight to sing the romantic ballad White Blank Page; he made all of the young girls around me go misty eyed and bite their knuckles and it dawned on me that this was the first time all night I’d been able to make the lyrics out; although the other 9,999 people in the Arena were all word perfect on every song.
The piano introduction to Hopeless Wanderer received a huge cheer of recognition from the hardcore fans at the front and the song went on to become one of the highlights of the night.
For me the concert only got going in the last half hour; starting with Dawes joining the Mumfords for a rowdy version of Awake My Soul followed by the Mumfords leaving the main stage and making a pantomime style appearance in the middle of the Arena; when the band gathered around one mic for a beautiful; if under rehearsed, rendition of Timshel as the audience looked like 10,000 glow worms recording it on their phones.
The lights went down again and the Mumfords re-appeared a minute later on the main stage for a noisy rendition of the Cave which finally gave the crowd the opportunity to go wild; which they did with great enthusiasm!
As the crowd roared their delight Dawes and the comedy Dinosaur joined Mumford and Sons for With a Little Help From My Friends and the fans danced like Dervishes waving their arms and phones in the air.
As we made our way back to the car I couldn’t help feeling it had been a bit like buying a ticket to see the Pogues, only to find Coldplay on stage.