Mumford & Sons in Cleveland
Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena was filled to capacity on March 9 with Mumford & Sons fans who have been waiting almost a decade for the band’s return to the area. As Marcus Mumford pointed out early on during the 95-minute set, “This is our second show in Cleveland. Last time was 2010. There were a lot less of you then, and we had a lot less songs.” He referenced the quartet’s May 21, 2010 show at the 500-capacity Beachland Ballroom, a former Croatian dance hall. This time, with 18,000 in attendance, the band was set up on a rectangular stage in the middle of the arena floor with general admission sections on either side of it.
Watching the band members handle the setting was impressive. The production aimed for a degree of intimacy by occasionally lighting up portions of the venue as well as lowering specific lighting trusses, rather than use spotlights, in order to focus on the musicians. They also showed awareness of their surroundings by constantly having someone facing one of the four sides of the Q. That conscious effort guaranteed that no one in the crowd to spent the night watching a musician’s backside. During “Ditmas,” Mumford left the stage, made his way to the very back section and ran up 26 rows to get closer to fans. He then ran through the middle of the GA crowd before returning onstage.
In order to produce the more expansive, textured material from their last two albums – “Wilder Mind” (2015) and “Delta” (2018) — Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett, and Ted Dwane were augmented by five musicians who contributed drums, keyboards, guitar, trombone and trumpet. The night began with “42” and “Guiding Light,” which, coincidentally, are the opening numbers “Delta.” They played four more tracks from that album.
The 19-song set leaned on their more recent songs wherein the band pursued musical ambitions that avoided the folk and bluegrass mix that made Mumford & Sons international superstars and helped the Americana genre blossom into a cultural juggernaut. “Tompkins Square Park” and “Believe” worked best in this anthemic approach.
Songs off of their multi-platinum debut and follow-up “Sigh No More” and “Babel” such as “Little Lion Man,” “The Cave,” and “Babel” were sprinkled throughout the night. Each brought with it a rapturous response from the audience.
Going back to their roots the four members played the first encore number, “Timshel,” around one microphone that was set up in the center of the stage. After complimenting the crowd for singing along throughout the concert, Mumford, in a plea for cooperation said, “Let’s see if we can get 18,000 people to shut the fuck up.” All but a tiny minority of loudmouths passed the “test.”
Next was a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” which leaned towards the infamous Johnny Cash version. “That was a thank you to Cleveland for giving us Nine Inch Nails,” said Mumford, “and a thank you to the U.S. for giving us Johnny Cash.”
A rousing “I Will Wait” from “Babel” came next before the evening ended with the title track off “Delta.” With the song’s combination of electronics and dynamics, it was a final reminder that the quartet is still working out in public its attempt to grow beyond Americana’s musical boundaries. sdsemihidde