"Mumford and his mates certainly did their best to show the crowd one of the greatest shows they have seen in recent memory."
If any further proof is required of the massive success that England's Mumford and Sons is enjoying in this country, you need look no further than the first of two sold out nights at the Fillmore Auditorium, from the energy of the band to the energy of the crowd. On stage, dozens of instruments littered the stage amidst elaborate lighting set ups, setting the scene of a thrift store run by a crazed shop owner. It all made for massive, jubliant hootenanny.
Opening up the spectacle on this night was fellow Englanders, by way of Aldershot, Matthew and the Atlas. The band, certainly knew their way around a harmony as lead vocalist Matt Hegarty hit octaves far below pianist Lindsay West's sweet falsetto. Hegarty's voice conjured up images of Gordon Lightfoot with a similar earnest delivery and sincere sentiment on lines like "My grandfather he did ask me, do you know what you have done/There were ripples in the water, I found them when you were young."
Hegarty also sported similar facial hair to Lightfoot as well, but he could not be reached to find out if he knew anything about the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. If you were to stumble upon Matthew and the Atlas at a local coffee shop, they would be an admirable sight, but dwarfed by the Fillmore's massive stage, the enormity of the event, and the talent that was following, the band came off as no more than average.
Local boy done good Nathaniel Rateliff, meanwhile, and his talented backing band, Fairchildren - guitarist Joseph Pope, drummer Patrick Meese, cellist Julie Davis and keyboard player James Hahn -- seemed completely in their element playing to a crowd of this magnitude. Rateliff played some new and intriguing material in the beginning of his set, songs not appearing on his latest album, the excellent In Memory of Loss.
The first two songs found Rateliff emitting the same classic timbre that he has worked so tirelessly to hone, while incorporating an ominous tone in the vein of Devothcka and Murder by Death. On these songs, Davis's contributions can not be overstated; she bowed her up-right bass with conviction while applying strong and complementary harmonies to Rateliff's vocals.
By the third song, Rateliff decided to delve into his amazing album, playing "Whimper and Wail" while Meese's tom heavy beat added urgency and pulse to the song. Later in the set, Rateliff played "Early Spring Till" followed by "You Should've Seen the Other Guy," proving he can play a song about the changing of seasons, followed by a song about getting his ass kicked in a street fight, and still make them sound equally poetic.
More photos and critic's notebook on next page.
To end the set, Marcus Mumford joined the band on "Shroud," singing and playing ukulele and giving the crowd their first taste of the true talent of the headliner. Mumford & Sons were introduced by a friend of theirs who prepared the crowd for "the greatest night of their lives." While this was a lofty statement, Mumford and his mates certainly did their best to show the crowd one of the greatest shows they have seen in recent memory.
Mumford & Sons -- rounded out by Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwayne -- opened the show with the title track from their 2010 debut, Sigh No More, starting the quiet intro in a hushed blue light before exploding at the song's apex as large white discs beamed an ocean of white light into the audience. As the crowd bounced excitedly to favorites like "Little Lion Man" and "Winter Winds," the band matched their energy, callously throwing around their instruments and shouting at each other gleefully.
Flexing their instrumental diversity, members switched instruments frequently as each song saw Marcus Mumford change from guitar to mandolin to sitting behind the drum set. It is this diversity that allows the band to switch from a playful Americana band to a bombastic and powerful rock band on songs like "Thistle and Weeds."
The only thing that slightly sucked the life out of the crowd was that when the band tested out several new songs, which, while impressive, lacked some of the heroics that much of the songs on Sigh No More exhibit. Regardless, Mumford & Sons showed here that they are a young and extremely talented band with limitless potential, they have no shortage of fans and have yet to reach the ceiling, musically.
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Personal Bias: Sigh No More was my favorite album of last year. Random Detail: Ryan Spilborghs of the Colorado Rockies stood next to me for most of the show. By the Way: Shouting "Free Bird," as some unscrupulous jerk did during Matthew and the Atlas' set, is not funny. It has never been funny, and it never will be funny. The next person that does this at a show will be visited by the ghost of Ronnie Van Zant, who will kick them in the dick.