There is music that is fun to listen to, music you can appreciate, music you can’t escape and some music that moves you. The music of Mumford & Sons is like that for me. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I most often listen to them in the forest running with the earth below my feet, a dance of light and dark flickering through the trees. Though all bands have their haters, especially bands who make obvious musical departures like Mumford & Sons did on their 2015 “Wilder Mind” album, I know I’m not alone in saying this.
For music that routinely lifts you out of the rut of the ordinary, there is no better legit test than seeing your Band Crush play live. I got to do that on May 14 in Dusseldorf, Germany for the second half of Mumford & Son’s Wilder Mind Tour. Curious as to how their old folksy infectious sound of “Sigh No More” and “Babel” would intermix with the new powerhouse rock sound of “Wilder Mind” in the context of a live performance, the answer is: really good. Like the wide arc of most their songs which take you low, high, then round again, the juxtaposition of style kind of just fits. After opening with “Snake Eyes” and two more songs from their new album, the German crowd – demonstrating their first love - roared their belated welcome with the knee-slapping, banjo-infused, drop the F-bomb classic “Little Lion Man.” Bouncing between the new and old material with an almost 50/50 split made for a richly varied and never boring nineteen song concert. If anything, it left you wanting more of the songs they didn’t have time to play.
In contrast to my last recent dome-sized show with U2, this show was less about high production value with slick lighting and videography and more about the straight up music. Marcus Mumford, who looks ridiculously like Alec Baldwin from a distance, can certainly carry a large venue with his smooth vocals and energy. No lackey to the demands of the stage, the only knock was the band seemed like they were still adjusting to a less intimate venue. This seemed most obvious to me when Mumford decided to crowd surf the entire arena during the song “Ditmas”which looked like both a security nightmare and watching an out-of-shape guy with a guitar run a 5k. I noticed it again before the encore when the band played an acoustic set of “Timshel” (one of my favorites) and “Cold Arms” which was beautiful but interrupted by a few drunken fans able to hide from public hushing in too cavernous a space.
As someone who has no ear for notes or musical composition (even saying that string of words together feels like I’ve done it wrong), I do like words. Marcus Mumford apparently does too as his lyrics matched with a rollercoaster ride of instruments invites a kind of searching. There is a quality, not in every song, but in many of them that cause the listener to stop, listen and even yield. Weirdly, it can happen among a community of arm-swaying people not in your own country just as easily as it can in the quiet of a forest. When music is rooted in some reality, whether we understand the artist’s precise worldview, a redirection of spirit can happen. Though Mumford resists the Christian label, for me whether consciously or not, his music moves me closer in my relationship with Jesus. While I and others may hear deep calling to deep in their music, others may only hear the tambourine or a shout of surface emotion. Regardless, we are all fans and fans love the reciprocity of a live performance rooted in something.