MARCUS Mumford is a man who simply oozes woe, pain and good old-fashioned heartache. So venturing out into a dismal December night to wallow in his angry sweat, blood and tears seemed a decidedly unfestive prospect.
The four-piece indie-folk sensation donned their waistcoats and brogues late last month to begin The Tour of Two Halves following the release of Babel, their second studio album.
It doesn’t matter that Babel wasn’t met with critical acclaim – after more than two years, the global appetite for a follow-up to Sigh No More was insatiable and a sell-out tour means fans clearly weren’t too bothered the 2011 BRIT Awards winners had played it safe and given them more of the same.
The curtain lifted as the band began brashly with a solid and true-to-album performance of Babel, before moving on to lead single I Will Wait.
That’s when the arena erupted into a sort of giant fluorescent barn dance, with foot-tapping so intense it seemed appropriate to doubt the building’s structural integrity.
It’s always good when a gig doesn’t consist exclusively of new material, and this one was no disappointment. A down-tempo version of Roll Away Your Stone was up next, followed by Winter Winds, again from Sigh No More.
Highlights included Little Lion Man, when Mumford took a break from his furious melancholy strumming and lowered the pace to let the audience relish in completing the F-word chorus.
Below My Feet and Hopeless Wanderer were executed beautifully, and are examples of those enchanting, grief-stricken tracks that seem to tell stories of a hard era gone by, but still manage to be comforting and warm.
There was a degree of clinical, hammer-blow intensity to the quartet’s delivery of the performance. And that’s no bad thing – it was a loud, crisp, no-nonsense affair that briskly moved between an excellent value 21 songs in total. The Cave and a cover of The Beatles’ A Little Help From My Friends provided a warm encore to an exceptional show.