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Review: Mumford and Sons at LC Pavilion, Columbus

August 15, 2012 - Andy Gray
Back in the ‘90s, when Americana music had its own magazine (No Depression) and all sorts of nicknames (alt-country, y’allternative), critics and fans waited for a band to come along that would break through and become a mainstream success instead of appealing almost exclusively to white guys in plaid and facial hair (ironic and non-ironic).

Wilco came closest, although it strayed outside the box. And while it’s a very successful band, there probably aren’t a lot of teenaged girls with Wilco posters on their bedroom walls.

It took longer than expected, but the genre has its crossover champion. And despite its quintessential American sound, the guys who did it are a band of Brits.

Mumford and Sons played a sold-out show Tuesday at LC Pavilion in Columbus. Actually, it played in the parking lot of LC Pavilion. Promoters realized during the presale that demand was too great for the 5,000-capacity outdoor venue, so they switched the show to a makeshift stage in the lot, which doubled the capacity. It still sold out weeks in advance (by comparison, the Wilco crowd easily was contained in the confines of the regular venue the week before).

Mumford and Sons plays Americana music the way U2 would. The banjo, fiddle, standup bass and acoustic guitars build to a majestic swell in support of lyrics that contain a hint of spirituality. The songs have a timeless quality, sounding a little like The Decemberists with a less twee frontman.

Let’s not underestimate the sex appeal of Marcus Mumford in the band’s success. He looks a bit like a cross between actors Brendan Fraser and Tom Hardy, and I heard more than one college-aged female scream, “I Love You,’’ between songs (something I never heard at a Son Volt concert).

Mumford, often playing guitar and kick drum simultaneously while singing lead vocal or harmony (when keyboard player Ben Lovett took the lead), has a commanding persona. He could bring the crowd to a hush on the ballads and unleash its full energy on the next song.

Banjo player Winston Marshall enjoyed wielding the power of saying “O-H …” in Columbus, leading the crowd in the Buckeye chant in various styles (shouted, whispered, sung).

The band played essentially all of its debut album “Sigh No More” as well as several cuts from “Babel,” which will be released next month. Among the new tunes, “I Will Wait,” “Lover of the Light” and “Below My Feet” stood out and were well-received.

Opening act Dawes (which was a better live act than I expected; frontman Taylor Goldsmith reminded me of Ryan Adams on a Neil Young jag) joined the band on “Awake My Soul.” And Mumford came out during Dawes’ set to share vocals with Goldsmith on “When My Time Comes”.

Mumford and Sons doled out the favorites from its debut throughout the 100-minute set. “Little Lion Man” was the second song played, “Roll Away Your Stone” was lodged in the middle and “The Cave” made for a rousing finale.

My only complaint with the show was I had to drive three hours to see it. Hopefully, the tour in support of “Babel” will include a Cleveland or Pittsburgh date.

 
 

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