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Mumford And Sons At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, December 11th, 2018, Reviewed

Mumford And Sons from way up yonder


We always thought Coldplay were the new U2 but no, Coldplay are a touch too smarmy, they work hard but they miss out on the big feel stuff, the huge kumbaya one we get to carry each other stuff, Chris can’t do it, he is too shallow. Marcus Mumford can, except he doesn’t have the material to pull it off. Even so, he has the gift of sincerity, and being English not Irish, he has a certain self-effacement which makes the whole deal easier to swallow.

Back in 2010 I was interviewing Karen Anne of Ramona and we were disagreeing about Mumford And Sons, she said they were wonderful and I said when compared to Fairport Convention, they should take their folk and stick it. The thing is, I hadn’t seen them live back then and when I finally did I less changed my mind and more conceded you had to see them live. Last night at Madison Square Garde,  Marcus And Sons took six songs off  their really boring new album, Delta,, as well twelve more of the better moments in their catalog, and brought down the house. The best rock band since, Bruce’s longest at MetLife? The Stones in Vegas?  Nope,  Arcade Fire also at MSG last year. But AF have a superior back catalog, it feels as though M&S work with one hand tied behind their backs. They give their heart and souls, share a brotherly comradery, have sweetness, and smarts all in aid of songs that aren’t worth the effort.

After opener Maggie Rogers, who has a hippie vibe, and a nice way of moving across the stage, and is given to saying stuff like, “I wrote this in my dorm at NYU,” while nicely singing fair to middling folk pop, Mumford And Sons entered to their oblong in the round stage, a little on the less is more after Travis Scott’s roller coaster but fair enough. Opening with “42,” off the  Delta, which the audience ate up but it was just keeping em in place till one of their biggest hits, “Little Lion Man” -a song I never remotely liked, and yet I was carried away by the band and the audience. The song, the lyrics, are so typical Mumford And Sons, every time they point at a  figure it comes back to them. While Bono, the King of this sort of stuff, looks on everything from somewhere above the fray, there is always the stale stench of condemnation, Marcus is in the middle. M&S are superstars who keep on aww shucking us, and yet it is oddly beguiling.

Later in the evening Marcus tells of how when they played London all the band members mothers showed except his and he called Mom out for it. The band also played MSG on Monday and his mom was in the audience and he forgot to mention her, the audience booed lustily, and Marcus looked abashed. Then he added, “She isn’t here tonight… but my wife is”. His wife is Carey Mulligan (astonishing off-Broadway earlier this year in  Dennis Kelly’s “Girls & Boys.”)… wait for it, “no,  she isn’t.” “I love them equally? Differently” he concludes. This is a rare gift, to portray yourself in such humane terms. The rest of the band are great at it as well, at another point Ted Dwane lets guitarist Winston Marshall plunk Ted’s Upright bass -it is so sappy, the way they smiled at each other. Whether gathered around a microphone near the end of the evening, or torn across the large stage, it is such a good vibe, so fun to see, so cool. “You know it’s going well when they are dancing up there,” Marcus noted staring directly at me some 5,000 miles away. Well, not me but everybody sure was dancing.

Yes, it is so cool that you try and forget that what you’re listening to isn’t all that hot. the playing is electrifying, the performance, hard work, sweaty and loud, and even when softer, never a drag, but the songs… oh my God, I can’t take the way they write songs. On stage you let it flow through, yet they have four albums and a World Music EP and none of them click well enough. Okay, give them “The Cave,” give them “I Will Wait,” a coupla others. And the way the audience joins in is a thrill, band it is to their credit that the two hours don’t drag at all, but later you go back to hear what you’ve been missing all these years and you haven’t been missing anything.

If we have to have a new U2, better M&S then just about anyone else. I just wish they wrote better songs.

Grade: B+

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