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It’s been a helluva premiere week for the U.K.’s fast-rising Mumford & Sons in America. And when I say “fast-rising,” I really mean that this is Autobahn high-speed ascension.

First there was the release of the rootsy quartet’s superb debut album, Sigh No More on Tuesday, a rousing outing of hit single “Little Lion Man” on Late Night with David Letterman on Wednesday (that would zoom them to the top of the iTunes Rock chart), and Thursday? Well, Thursday’s hotter’n Georgia asphalt first headlining performance in New York City went off without a hitch. Well, maybe a little rasp on singer Marcus Mumford and the typical sound-mixing issues most bands face at Bowery Ballroom, but the passion-soaked hoedown/revival that the show became was, quite frankly, astonishing.

I’ve watched plenty of bands achieve “full flight” before. That’s what following U2 around the country for years and admiring Fanfarlo during CMJ will earn you. But the fiery, banjo-wielding Mumford & Sons showed the capacity crowd truly something special last night, and the crowd – a foot-stomping, hands-in-the-air, doin’ a jig, hugging your neighbor mass of winter coat-wearing strangers – sang back every word. “Awake My Soul” became less an album track, and more a pathos as the night wore on.

The excitement of the ebullient crowd was not lost on the band, and clearly the city has made is trademark impression on the weary travelers too, leading positively giddy keyboardist Ben Lovett to remark that on Wednesday night the band “came close to signing a contract to live here!” Mumford then chimed in, “We secretly want to be gangsters, but publicly, we know that’s not going to happen. So we keep on keepin’ on.”

A damp but triumphant set of album highlights such as “White Blank Page,” “Timshel,” and “Thistle & Weeds” along with new song “Lover of the Light,” saw the band exchange wide grins and thumbs-ups between songs, and brought on more witty banter from a ruddy Mumford, who proclaimed that his mother calls him “a sweater,” and although it looks like he’s crying, we can be assured that “80 percent of the time” he is not.

Show-stopping ballad “I Gave You All” cast a pin-drop silence over the crowd with no tears in sight from the egregiously hardworking singer, but the calm was only momentary as Mumford wondered, “Is it too serious in here? The house is too serious. I’m wondering if we should take our clothes off. What ever happened to the ‘60s?”

Free love, face paint, fields of daisies and tie-dye aside, there was plenty of reinvention in the house last night: four wily, self-proclaimed “arrogant” Englishmen officially became the toast of downtown music lovers. Next stop: everywhere. Watch yer back, Vampire Weekend. “Cousins” have nothin’ on Mumford & Sons. –Carrie Alison, Photo by Carrie Alison (CMJ, October 2009)

Sigh No More is out now on Glassnote Records.

 
  1. [...] you haven’t seen the Mumford live show yet, here’s a taste from their February show at New York’s Bowery [...]

  2. [...] admiring Fanfarlo during CMJ will earn you. But the fiery, banjo-wielding Mumford & Sons showed the capacity crowd truly something special last night, and the crowd – a foot-stomping, hands-in-the-air, doin’ a [...]