Mumford & Sons, Raleigh Amphitheater, June 8
This is a guest post from good friend and bluegrass nut Jamie Katz of Raleigh, NC. She’s works for PineCone – the the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music. Make sure to give her some love on Twitter: @jmknc. Hope everyone is enjoyed their holiday weekend!
Music is experienced through the filter of life and experience, so before I tell you about the fantastic show that Mumford and Sons put on at the Raleigh Amphitheater, you should probably know a little bit about me (not necessarily in order of importance):
1: As a rule, I prefer smaller, intimate concerts. The last time I saw a show in a large amphitheater that I truly enjoyed was 2004 – Counting Crows in Annapolis.
2: For nearly 3 years, I’ve worked for a nonprofit organization called PineCone. We present concerts and related music programs in Raleigh that hearken back to the acoustic traditions that preceded Mumford & Sons.
3: Given my personal experiences, I find that I am often pickier about audio quality than the average concert go-er, something amphitheaters have less control over.
4:: The night I attended Mumford & Sons in Raleigh was the same night I learned that my grandfather had passed away.
That last point is not a call for sympathy, but merely a frame-of-mind/context offering. Once in a while, I get the itch to hear a band that’s playing in a big space, and this year Raleigh is certainly making a play for getting me out to more of them. Other shows on the Amphitheater’s lineup that were or are tempting: Decembrists (past), Bon Iver (July 29), and Fleet Foxes (Sept. 21). I only managed a ticket to the sold-out Mumford & Sons show at the Raleigh Amphitheater at the last-minute thanks to Twitter, where I happened across someone who had a single ticket she couldn’t use. It was a lawn seat, and having enjoyed a couple Mumford & Sons songs I’d heard, along with the general buzz about the band, it seemed time for the annual check-in at a large venue. Besides, I’d not yet been to a show at the Amphitheater, even though I could walk there from my apartment.
Finding a seat on the lawn that was at least somewhat out of the sun and with some sort of view of the stage, I pulled out some paper and started writing some impressions of both the space and the family news of the day; unrelated and yet connected in my memory henceforward. The heat was still a factor, though less than it probably had been earlier in the day while the stage crew was setting up and the bands were sound-checking. Hats off to the staff and bands for putting on a fantastic show in the sticky summer weather Raleigh provided.
At one point, Mumford did comment on the heat, noting that they don’t wear shorts because “We’re English!” They also nodded to the music traditions that inspired them, mentioning that North Carolina seemed very similar to the United Kingdom, and perhaps that was why so many immigrants settled in North Carolina, bringing the string-band and Irish traditions of their homelands to the NC mountains and Piedmont, where both traditional bluegrass and Americana still flourish.
Back on the lawn, folks seemed less interested in the opening acts, chatting and settling in for the night ahead. That, combined with the fact that the opening acts did not seem to have the volume turned up very loudly to begin with (Raleigh noise ordinances, perhaps?), made it difficult to hear both The Low Anthem and Matthew & the Atlas; folks I talked with after the show who had been sitting closer to the front really seemed to enjoy both openers, and the few lines that did penetrate the ambient crowd noise made me wish I could have heard the openers better.
When Mumford & Sons took the stage, almost the entire crowd took to their feet with a roar, and the excitement in the Amphitheater was palpable – always a good omen. They certainly did not disappoint – working through some tunes the fans knew and loved as well as some new music, they kept the crowd dancing in the aisles (to the apparent chagrin of the concert security workers). They kicked off the night with the title track of the their album, “Sigh No More.” Who can resist their lyrics? They have as much power live as they do recorded, if not more. “Didn’t I My Dear” was probably the loudest sing-along prior to the encore, which closed out with the Avett Brothers’ Joe Kwon joining the group on his cello for “Winter Winds” and, of course, “The Cave.”
Overall, the crowd’s enthusiasm was very evident, and seeing Mumford & Sons hold the sold-out crowd through the heat, the train whistles, and the sirens definitely spoke well of them and their performance. I am so glad to have gotten that last-minute ticket to see what this talented group can do live. They kept a good mix of music going the whole night, moving between high-energy anthems like the new “Hopeless Wanderer” and quieter tunes like “After the Storm.” Each and every song was instilled and delivered with remarkable passion. Even with mostly “traditional” instrumentation (plus drums and the occasional electric instruments), there was no mistaking that this was a rock show, and they certainly gave the energy back to the crowd that they crowd gave to them, with interest. I am excited to hear and see what they do next – they did announce that there will be a new album after the tour.
Sigh No More
Awake My Soul
White Blank Page – the raw emotional energy in the word heart (“Where was my fault in loving you with my whole heart?”) – amazing
Roll Away Your Stone
Broken Crown (To Darkness) (new song – new album after tour!)
Timshel – quieter
Hopeless Wanderer (new – anthemic)
Didn’t I My Dear (loudest sing-along in my vicinity)
Lover of the Light
Thistle & Weeds (another to rock out to)
After the Storm (quiet)
Dust Bowl Dance
Encore – brought out Avett Brothers’ Joe Kwon on cello!