Published Aug 05, 2013The biggest surprise of Mumford and Sons' set had less to do with the British folk-pop band's sound but with their look: gone were the vests and suspenders, instead looking like any other indie band with T-shirts, facial hair, and leather jackets. Their retro aesthetic was still present in the form of the sepia filter on the massive video screens, reminding the audience that their throwback gimmick was still present.
The band themselves are comprised of competent and talented musicians, and the diverse instrumentation included banjos, violins, and a three-piece horn section in addition to the standard rock setup. This led to a full sound with lilting musical arrangements, exemplified in tracks such as "I Will Wait" and "Winter Winds." However, as the performance went on, it occasionally felt as if the band were just playing the same few songs over and over again. Bandleader Marcus Mumford handled the vocal duties well, and his voice was strong and clear, even while being accompanied by thousands of screaming fans. Mumford also took a turn behind the drums for "Dust Bowl Dance," pounding the skins much to the audience's delight, but the event came off as more of a ploy for an audience reaction than an actual artistic choice.
The main issue with the performance is that nearly the entire performance didn't feel genuine; instead of earnest folk musicians pouring out their hearts to the audience, Mumford and his band-mates seemed simply to be playing the part on stage. The only "heart" present was the word itself, jammed into the lyrics of nearly every single one of the songs. Mumford's "merci beaucoup" at the end of every tune came off as a bizarre formality. The one moment where the band displayed any bit of authentic emotion was during their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire," which featured the band huddled around a single microphone. Their admitted nervousness about the fact that the stunt may not work out was the first time they felt like genuine human beings, but since the cover was the first song of the encore, it was too little, too late.