What a glorious road Mumford and Sons have been travelling down these last few years…and they’re nowhere near slowing down. After their sold-out Sydney Entertainment Centre show, I’m so close to packing my bags and heading bush to Dungog, just to experience that magic once more.
Earlier in the night, I almost choked on my dinner as I realised that the first support, Willy Mason, had already begun. I raced down to the venue, hoping to catch the end, but was devastated to have missed it all. Next time Mr Mason.
I took my stance amongst the growing crowd just as the herd of people that make up Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros piled onto the stage. Warm cheers echoed. With a low hum and little laugh from lead singer Alex Ebert, they began. Their opening track, Man on Fire, was amazing: powerful, with a deep drone from the Zeros, and then the lead vocal line ringing out clear. Watching Alex was mesmerising: he moved with a cool swagger and danced from his shoulders down. And then, suddenly, he was out of sight. He’d jumped down into the crowd to dance, apparently only needing half a song’s warm-up before he leapt.
All up, there stood twelve people on stage, and more than double that for the number of instruments; and six hats. Yet their large number was not at any point too much. With considered arrangements and effective chorus, solos and dynamics, this seemingly dreamy, hippie band is also incredibly thoughtful.
That’s What’s Up was a beautifully fun interplay between Alex and singer Jade Castrinos, and saw them chase each other around the stage with such friendly affection. For the moving Child, the vocals were lead by Christian Letts and, to the crowd’s delight, featured Marcus Mumford on mandolin. Let’s Get High flew Alex off the stage toward the crowd once more, and for their extremely lovable hit Home, the Mumford horn section graced the stage, lifting the song to a massive dynamic. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were outstanding.
During the break, I began to feel such excitement. The stage was dressed with huge, circular lights, and fairy lights draped above the standing crowd. The light show was set to be pretty magical. So, to welcome the four Englishmen, those globes glowed blue, illuminating them just enough. Already, I was captivated. Singing out Lovers’ Eyes with sincerity, the lights suddenly shone golden as the horns entered and the song built. Oh this show was going to be special, all right! With driving energy they lead straight into the hoedown Roll Away Your Stone, Marcus’s raw vocals soaring, and everyone on and off stage was jumping.
The new track Holland Road was stunning, with incredible dynamic shifts and strong horn entry. That song felt so believable, a recent truth: ‘and I knew your pain and the effect of my shame, but you cut me down’. It was performed with this united vigour that seemed unworn, fresh. The same went for I Will Wait. Although songs from Sigh No More were unflawed, Mumford and Sons’ new songs had an enchanting life that they all obviously felt. And while the whole place resonated ‘I will wait, I will wait for you’, and as that banjo line drove, I got lost in awe.
Little Lion Man was still as strong as ever and had all the fairy lights blazing us with bright warmth. After a quick move to the drum kit, Marcus belted out to Lover of the Light, gaining such a huge sound with the full backing band. The way Marcus phrases his melodies live is enthralling, and his natural tone is controlled but at once relaxed. In particular Ghosts That We Knew was chilling and honest. To say that these performers had great musicality and connection would be an understatement. But what is perhaps more incredible is that, after everything, they’ve remain so humble.
Returning the favour, Christian Letts came back to the stage to perform Awake My Soul with plenty of gorgeous harmony. To lead into the last song, Dust Bowl Dance, Ben Lovett gracefully showed his admirable talents on the upright piano. With Marcus again on drums and intense electric guitar, the number became a wall of sound, to then dramatically fall back to that soft, eerie vocal line to finish.
Knowing we were in for an encore, we waited as the boys regrouped. When they started the heartfelt Where Are You Now, I was again lost. I love that track. The crowd was not at all weary as they jumped to The Cave – by then we were all lost in the world of Mumford and Sons.
With an end like no other, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Willy Mason returned to the stage, and at once the whole stage shook as the mass of people upon it all stomped in time. Singing Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, the group finished with the repeated line ‘keep us together’ strongly ringing out in unison.
So to finish, all I can possible say is:
What. A. Show.
Roll Away Your Stone
I Will Wait
White Blank Page
Below My Feet
Little Lion Man
Lover of the Light
Thistle & Weeds
Ghosts That We Knew
Awake My Soul
Whispers in the Dark
Dust Bowl Dance
Where Are You Now