Mumford & Sons

support Bill Ryder-Jones
author HES date 12/05/16 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

I'll admit that tonight’s show is something I've been looking forward to with mixed emotions. My biggest grudge against Mumford & Sons is primarily the fact that the band has enjoyed widespread fame in spite of it not being one of the best folk bands out there - at all. Recent releases have only played into the stadium sound and in a genre where genuineness is an important commodity this maneuver seems quite, well, disingenuous. On the other hand, the band still delivers enchanting hooks and I am willing to put these aforementioned feelings behind me and just enjoy the infectious party, the show will probably be: We’re ~9000 people here, but the crowd also impresses with being extremely disparate in age and gender. All groups inbetween young grandmothers and drunk teenagers are represented, but most of them with a beer in one hand and several in their system already.

Photos courtesy of Nikola Majkic

Bill Ryder-Jones

Bill Ryder Jones is a new name to me, and to most of the crowd it would seem, that continues talking over the music as Ryder-Jones starts the first song. Supposedly a musical wonderchild, Ryder-Jones is both a film score composer as well as a singer/songwriter. Tonight, he is supported by a band of 2 guitarists, a guy on a synth-sounding keyboard, as well as a drummer. Ryder-Jones himself takes the bass, that also dominates the semi-poorly mixed soundscape. Ryder-Jones is dressed in a devil-may-care plaid-shirt, awkwardly unbuttoned very low in the front, supported by the greasiest hair I’ve seen in awhile. It’s clear that he is somewhat imitating a 90’s look here, but not only that, his lethargic imitation of 90’s rockstar behaviour, singing and talking is completely disengaging.

The songs are all very low tempo, and borderline boring - albeit a few of them end in a soaring crescendo, with energetic drum work, showing that composing grand sound is one of Ryder-Jones fortés. On the other hand, his talent as a rhythmic composer is questionable as most of the melodies are lacking any hooks for the audience to hold on to. Through out the show, the mic also starts feeding terribly. Ryder-Jones’ only audible words to the crowd is that there’s only “five more songs to get through before Mumford & Sons” - a great joke, if it hadn’t actually been the feeling I am personally battling throughout the show. A few semi-brilliant moments are provided by the two unnamed stars of the night on the drums and especially the synths, that somehow make me think of The Cure in the 90’s as well as dark dystopian streets. Apart from that, Bill Ryder-Jones and band disappears into a long line of bland warm up gigs.

5

Mumford & Sons

In spite of being promised that Mumford & Sons would go on stage “right after” the warm up band, destiny seems to have other thoughts on the matter. A slurry of sound and light personnel flood the stage for almost three quarters of an hour - an acceptable waiting time, if one had not been promised a shorter wait. The worst part of the wait is however probably the horrible hip hop music being played in the background. “Alas!”, the crowd seems to think as the sea of people gets denser and more drunk, as the break leaves more time for visits to the bar.

To the sound of a quick greeting and the sound of “Snake Eyes“ from the band’s recent album “Wilder Mind” the show starts. The song is strangely low energy for an opener with echoed, withheld vocals, but a steady rise in tempo leads to a pretty decent crescendo. But it omnisciently foretells the biggest battle the band is fighting tonight: A heap of only semi-interesting songs, mainly with decent choruses, but impossibly disengaging verses.

The band has brought the full stops for tonight, as the backdrop drops and reveals rows of expensive lights, the ceiling of the stage is also one big panel of robotic lights and lasers. And it is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful at times - just the bells and whistles you’d expect from a stadium rock band. My problem is, that it is completely juxtapositioned with the older, more folksy material: I am not sure lasers and fiddles really go together? But the crowd around me seems very engaged and just that fact lifts the experience of especially one of the band’s first hits “Little Lion Man” up on very promising levels. Marcus Mumford’s voice is sounding great tonight with an authentic porosity to it as he strains himself in the more emotional parts of “Believe”.

As I mentioned, it becomes clear in a live setting that the songs are very similarly constructed: Most of them rely on a sing-along style chorus that is foreshadowed by rolling drums intensifying to lead the crowd safely into soaring singing that is caught by microphones directed at the audience, exaggerating the feeling of 9000 people singing along in one voice. And it happens on at least every other song. In the start of the show it seemed impressing, but as drunkards in the audience exploit the chance to have a drunken conversation inbetween choruses, it becomes very apparent that most people here are actually only entertained for ⅓ of the show: Whenever they can sing along.

A few of the songs however receive better attention, for example “Tompkins Square Park” where Mumford takes the drums as he used to way back in the days. Another joy is watching bassist Ted Dwane, looking like a real-life representation of how I’ve always imagined Lennie Small from “Of Mice and Men” (the book, people), petting his bass extremely enthusiastically and gesturing every rhythmic change in tempo with his wonderful mimicry. Guitarist Winston Marshall also infects us with his enthusiasm. When the whole band joins in for bright four-piece harmonies, we almost get to the point of goose bumps, but it’s never really quite “there”. It is clear that most of the band members are very talented musicians, but the brilliant moments are too few for an hour and a half’s worth of time. I see a lot of people leaving already as the encore sets in and it’s pretty apparent that the party value of the show is great for the drunker part of the audience, but the people preoccupied with having to get up for work tomorrow are more concerned with getting to the metro than hearing a semi-forgettable rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” - a standard cover for many folk-bands it seems, although none of them really deliver anything on the same level of Springsteen himself. I myself leave the show not really impressed, but not the opposite of that either. Almost indifferent. Which is actually the worst way I can feel about a show.

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