Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
umford and Sons have always played it smart when it has come to career moves. They have not overtoured by becoming regular fixtures on the touring circuit. Their M.O. is to tour just enough upon an album release and then disappear for a stretch. Ditto for releasing new music ("Delta" just came out last month, Mumford's first release since 2015's "Wilder Mind"). They have done both just enough to maintain a presence, but never so much as to overstay their welcome.
And while "Delta" has received mixed reviews, the live gig was far more up to snuff, albeit not perfect.
Mumford and Sons kicked off the night with "Guiding Light," the first single from "Delta," which is most similar to their traditional amped up folkish/Americana sound. Good start with Marcus Mumford's vocal delivery as much a force as ever. That would also be the case on one of their biggest hits, "Little Lion Man," which followed.
The band dipped fairly equally into their four full-lengths. The new material generally held up, although not necessarily as anthemic or invigorating.
Mumford's acoustic guitar often provided the entrée to the material. While Winston Marshall's banjo and Ted Dwane's upright bass were nowhere to be found on "Wilder Mind," both were out throughout the show, especially the banjo. Maybe Mumford and Sons knew to stick with success at least in the live environment.
So, what were the shortcomings? A few of the songs from "Delta" just didn't match up sonically with the rest of the set. None perhaps more so than "Darkness Visible," which has an electronica edge to edge and a taped spoken part. There's a dissonance here that just didn't integrated with the rest of the 1 ¾-show.
The use of drum pads furthered the distance from what Mumford and Sons excels at. There's a realness to what Mumford is about. Electronics are not.
And then there was the most puzzling staging. The stage was situated in the middle of the floor with raised platforms on either end. The problem was that for chunks of the show Mumford, who as the lead singer, moved around the most, was either at the far end or else had his back to you.
That did not make for a particularly intimate show. Maybe creative on paper, but the reality was tried and true staging would have worked far better.
While not the ideal show, at least when the band stuck to more of what the band excels at (the simply exquisite "Timshel," with the four surrounding a mic), there was a lot to be said once again for Mumford and Sons.
Highly touted singer Maggie Rogers opened with a generally upbeat set. Rogers has gained acclaimed even though she has not received released her debut (that's coming in January). Being recognized by Pharrell Williams can do that to your career.
Rogers' material was on the musically light side, dance inducing, but not especially distinctive. Rogers was earnest, likable and had some good material such as the single "Light On." More distinctiveness could go a long way as her vocals at times were lost in the sound. She also came out during Mumford's encore, "Awake My Soul," helping out on vocals. Rogers held her own on the big stage, but a smaller venue probably would have played more to her strengths.