Music industry insider Victoria Wyatt reviews Mumford & Sons Rome gig.
I first saw Mumford & Sons at the Itunes Festival at the spectacular Roundhouse in London in 2009 just before the release of the band's debut album Sigh No More, and by Jove have these boys leapt to superstardom since then, and deservedly so.
At that stage, the entire audience was blown away by the all encompassing folk/pop/rock sound, the likes of which we had never heard before. 16 concerts and six years later everything is much more familiar, but the lads never fail to impress. Three studio albums into their career the sound has shifted and become heavier with the use of different instrumentation, but the soul, honesty and musicianship of every member shines through.
First though, we need to talk support bands and general concert etiquette.
When baby-faced Leeds singer/songwriter Joseph Lyone, aka Eaves walked on stage with his band I think it would be fair to say most people had no clue who they were, although the people next to me were convinced it was Of Monsters and Men. Playing to a restless crowd who is there to essentially see another band is a difficult job, and audiences should remember that it is usually the headline band who has carefully chosen and selected their support, as they believe in their talent and potential and are giving them a platform where they can gain new fans and recognition.
With the vocal range and ease of Jeff Buckley, and the intensity and shrouding locks of Kurt Cobain, Eaves leads his band with the calmness of a much more seasoned performer. Only their attire was disjointing as it looked like each band member had been plucked from a completely different musical genre.
The haunting melodies and compelling lyrics soon quietened the waiting mass a little and the magic of seeing this brand new singer seemed to transfix the crowd. It's been a long time since I have seen a new artist of this calibre, and his debut LP What Green Feels Like has been played repeatedly on my Spotify playlist since last night.
I feel this is a good time to introduce my four top tips for etiquette at a live show, which other countries better used to festival type shows have already grasped:
1. Remember there are people behind and to the side of you. Sounds easy, but in Italy finding even an inch of personal space at a concert is impossible. It's easy, keep your elbows in when putting hair up into a ponytail, don't lean back to take a selfie with your group of mates as three other groups of friends will fall over, and use the width of your shoulders as a base for where you plant your feet.
2. Pay some attention to the support band. They have essentially beaten thousands of other budding bands for this opportunity, and most concert goers are there to hear music, so the occasional chat is fine, but update your mates on your life story over coffee the next day. A little respect for the band and those who want to hear them goes a long way.
3. Don't shout demanding chants at a band when techies have been on stage for three minutes performing the change over between support and main acts. These dudes are amazing and cannot work any faster.
4. Spray on more deodorant then usual. It's hot, we are all smashed together in a friendly way, let's make this experience as pleasant as possible.
Mumford & Sons kicked off their two-hour, 20-song set with Hot Gates from their newly released Wilder Mind album. It was a perfectly tranquilo start, putting instant focus on vocals and harmonies that the four piece create as perfectly live as they do in the studio. The set included most of the tracks from the new album and of course the biggies and favourites from the previous two.
After five years of touring and recording almost non-stop, the musical world gasped when in September 2013 Mumford & Sons declared they were going on hiatus "for a considerable amount of time", but luckily it was only a few months until the announcement that the writing of new music would begin in February 2014, and last July it was confirmed they were recording a new album. Thank goodness we didn't have to wait long and to support the release the lads are currently on a huge festival tour and have a few "Stopover Festivals" in between, organised under their own moniker of "Gentlemen of the Road".
It was an international crowd at Rock in Roma last night, possibly the most diverse I have seen at a concert here in Italy so people were singing along in force and they bounced and jumped along at all the right points, Little Lion Man in the encore being the main culprit of course.
Marcus Mumford is the king of interaction and his obvious efforts with the Italian language were highly appreciated. Asking people at one stage if they wanted to dance (vuoi ballare?) and soon after asking if they wanted to sing (vuoi cantare?), then explaining the difficulties he had with the differences between "un altra calzone" (highlighted with a yum yum and a belly rub) and "un altra canzone", and promising to know all of our names by the end of the show, we were collectively smitten.
One lucky concert goer Filippo had the night of his life as Mumford pointed out his joyous reaction at the intro of one track, and the audience joined in with regularly chanting his name in song breaks. Towards the end of the show Filippo was invited onstage and treated to generous man hugs by all members and translated Marcus Mumford's mini declaration of his love of playing in Italy into Italian for the entire crowd.
With four extra musicians on stage at various points chiming in with trumpets, violins extra drums and saxophones at all the necessary points (mostly tracks from the first two studio albums) and everyone on stage looking and sounding like they were having the time of their lives, Mumford & Sons conquered yet another gig. They are the recipe for a perfect festival band and we look forward to their return... as they promised they soon would. Filippo and the rest of us will all be there.