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When Grammy Award nominee Mumford & Sons played Boston’s TD Garden last night, it was the first time I had ever been to an arena show that large. I have made a habit to avoid these types of shows at all costs, even if it meant missing an act that I really loved. Based entirely on assumption, I thought these huge shows would make me feel detached and I wouldn’t be able to emotionally invest myself in the performance. I’m thrilled to admit that I was wrong, while I can’t say my mind is changed for good, I can say that Marcus Mumford captivated my full attention and my heart from beginning to end.
Footing the bill last night were the Felice Brothers and Ben Howard. The massive TD Garden was bustling like a mall during the holidays for the sold out show. It’s hard to believe that Mumford & Sons have only two albums out and have amassed such a following. Hailing from West London, breeding ground for folk masterpieces, a place that artists like Laura Marling, Noah and The Whale, and Johnny Flynn also call home.
Mumford & Sons kicked off the 15-song set with the sole kick drum set at Mumford’s feet and the title track off of their hit record Babel. Immediately following was “I Will Wait” also off of the 2012 release.
For the majority of the set, Mumford stood prominently at the forefront of the stage with he band mates and more notably – without a full drum kit. If you had asked me prior I would have told you with great certainty that no man could command a 17,000 seated arena with just a kick drum. Mumford does it with ease and charming smile as he eggs the crowd on with, “let’s have a little dance, shall we?” as he begins the first chords of his hit single, “Little Lion Man.”
Mumford’s set was incredibly dynamic, ranging from upbeat swells that brought a little girl atop of her father’s shoulders to wave her arms and dance to heavy hearted renditions of tracks like “Lover of the Light.” As Mumford sang, “you saw no fault, no cracks in my heart, and you knelt beside my hope torn apart,” the entire arena fell silent. By the end of “Ghosts That We Knew” many were shedding a silent tear and singing under their own breath, “so give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light, ‘cause oh they gave me such a fright.”
Other stand out tracks of night included, “White Blank Page,” “Roll Away Your Stone,” and “Whispers In the Dark.” The set came to a close with a full band rendition of “Dust Bowl Dance” off of the band’s 2009 debut record Sigh No More. The quartet bellowed the chorus together and the crowd roared with each thumping bass line. The rich and raw quality of Mumford’s vocals is unmatched; he sings with such fervor and passion – it’s something you experience with chills up and down your spine.
The arena roared and whistled as the band thanked them for coming and quickly exited the stage. Just a short five minutes later they were back again, but not on the main stage. The band took everyone by surprise when they popped up on a small platform in the back of the floor. Those standing on the floor quickly oriented themselves and ran to secure a spot for the dimly lit, intimate encore. The band opened up once more with two special tracks they saved for the end, “Sister” and “The Cave.” Seeing the band in a whole new light, I imagine this is what their recording process is like. Standing in a circle facing each other – the comradery between the four is so natural and effortless.
The unplugged encore was a special taste of that closeness and intimacy that I initially feared I wouldn’t get at a show of this size. But lo and behold, that feeling I yearned for found me in a room of thousands.