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Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010

Mumford & Sons @ The Riverside Theater

Oct. 30, 2010

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Halloween weekend couldn't have been a more fitting time of year to see Mumford & Sons—not because the English quartet plays ghoulish horror punk like The Misfits or sprays fake blood and murders effigies onstage a la GWAR, but because of Mumford & Sons’ ability to accurately mimic their influences. Saturday night at a sold-out Riverside Theater show, The Avett Brothers, Fleet Foxes, Beirut, Kings of Leon and more were conjured up in a bombastic but predictable performance.

Even though it was the day before Halloween, as keyboardist Ben Lovett pointed out, many concertgoers were already dressed in costume. The members of Mumford & Sons weren't clad in the seasonal attire, per se, but if the band's sound resembled any character, it would be Batman's nemesis, Two-Face. Almost every Mumford & Sons song was a tale of two halves: first-half folk, second-half rock. Opener "Sigh No More" began with a pastoral harmony akin to Fleet Foxes and crescendoed slowly into a soaring Kings of Leon anthem. It was a compelling transition. That is, it was until they repeated this same act over and over. Same humble beginnings, same rollicking ends—the routine was exhausting.

It's commendable that an outfit with no drummer for the better part of the night could create such a giant sound. On "White Blank Page" and "Dust Bowl Dance" these four English gents seemed able to fill amphitheaters and arenas with their rock. Nothing hit harder than "Little Lion Man." It's the song that catapulted them into mainstream radio-play. That was evident Saturday night when the entire room sang along to its cathartic chorus.

In a set bursting with audience declarations of “wahoo!” and "I love you!,” the hushed calm during the completely unplugged encore-opening tune "Wagon Wheel" was quite touching. Tour mates Cadillac Sky and King Charles even helped belt out what at first seemed like a sincere moment destined to fail. But it didn't, proving that Mumford & Sons can incite an audience to scream during their rock excesses and, in the same night, get them to peacefully listen to a folk song.

Photo by CJ Foeckler