Friday night I saw Mumford and Sons at The Greek Theater on the campus of UC Berkeley. It was the second of three consecutive shows at the 8,500 capacity open air venue. The crowd was into the show the whole night and the overall atmosphere was a mix of a college party and an arena rock show. When I first heard Mumford and Sons it was their single “Little Lion Man” and there was a buzz starting to build around them. Their folky bluegrass style made them popular with the indie rock crowd and they were gaining mainstream popularity. That was four years ago and since then they’ve broken through into the mainstream to become one of the biggest bands in the world and also won a Grammy for album of the year. So they are playing bigger places like this one and I was wondering how their show would hold up well in these types of large venues that have video screens and nose bleed sections. A more intimate setting would seem more appropriate, but I have to say they really pull it off well.
Before the show, thousands of fans could be seen lined up before doors opened. With just a few minutes till the band came out, there was no denying the crowd was getting excited. There was a group of fans up front and center holding a sign that reads “Here all three nights”. You could really tell they have a hardcore following. As the band came out and started to play “Lovers’ Eyes”, from the Grammy winning album Babel, the crowd erupted in cheers. College students made up the majority of the crowd but overall it was a mix of all ages. There were your stereotypical later in life hippies, young children with parents and businessmen. They all seemed equally into the show. Through out the whole show people were dancing, stomping and clapping along with the songs. Security seemed to be on a never ending and hopeless mission to keep people out of the aisles and from blocking the stairs. The set was pretty evenly split with material from their two studio albums. On stage, the four members stood out front and behind them were risers with a backing band made up of a drummer, guitarist and horn players. Through out the evening the band switched around on instruments including playing accordion and mandolin. Their performance was accompanied by a light show that seems more fitting for a band such as Metallica or Van Halen, but somehow fit great with the atmosphere of the show. About three quarters of the way through the main set vocalist and keyboardist Ben Lovett asked the crowd how many of them were students and was met by loud cheers. He then asked how many of them were parents and was met with more cheers. He continued on to ask how many were weed smokers and got louder cheers. He probably had a pretty good idea before asking the question because of the smell through out the air. He then went on to say he nailed all his demographics. That the students were standing up in one area, the parents sitting down in another and the weed smokers were chillin up in the top before continuing by saying he has respect for all those demographics. He then asked how many people were republicans and was met by laughter followed by a small amount of scattered cheers and then by loud booing. I think he knows his fan base well.
Highlights of the show included “Little Lion Man” getting just about everyone in the venue dancing about half through and “Ghosts That We Knew” showing their softer side. The biggest highlight in my opinion was closing the main set with the backing band leaving the stage and the band rocking out on an intense performance “Dust Bowl Dance” with Marcus Mumford playing drums. Shortly after leaving the stage the band returned to cheers and played a tender and mellow version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire”. The encore continued with “Reminder” and “Not with Haste” from their album Babel. Then they closed the show with the song that is mostly responsible for their rise to this level, “The Cave”. Through out the night I was impressed that this band that is known for their folk music sound could translate so well into an arena show. They seemed right at home on the high stage with over the top lighting, the video screens and high crowd capacity. The crowd was great and the band gave them something to cheer about the entire show. They really are one of the biggest bands in the world right now and seem perfectly comfortable with that.