Mumford & Sons

support Gang Of Youths
author MN date 17/05/19 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

Serving as soundtracks to my university days, bands like The Gaslight Anthem, Arcade Fire, Of Monsters & Men and especially Mumford & Sons are a source of endless nostalgia of a time characterized by frivolity, love and a lack of worry. On this rainy Great Prayer Day, Royal Arena are to play host to one of the UK’s most cherished lads in the form of Mumford & Sons on their highly anticipated Delta Tour. Royal Arena has now passed its second year of existence and has thereby exited its infancy on the venue market. Entering the venue goes as seamlessly as always and one cannot stress how relaxing it is to enter without the qualm of massive lines. Locating some old buddies of mine, my anticipation rises and admittedly, it’s not for tonight’s headliners, but rather for tonight’s support act Gang of Youths. The Sydney, Australia-based indie-rock gentlemen have taken my world by storm, and their latest record “Go Farther in Lightness” has been spun relentlessly for the last year or so. In an unconventional fashion, the stage tonight is placed dead center, and according to Marcus Mumford, it is meant to provide a multidimensional experience, inspired by a pirate ship. A little after 8pm, the lights begin dim to the delight of the crowd.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Bruse thor Straten

Gang Of Youths

Gang of Youths, for those unaware, are a lyrically-fuelled indie-rock band anchored by the highly charismatic frontman David Le’Aupepe. The strengths in Gang of Youths’ music is found in their fierce execution of melancholic tunes. The poetic prowess of Le’Aupepe in this regard cannot be understated, and the challenge at Royal Arena tonight is to see how it is received by a largely unfamiliar audience. “What Can I Do if the Fire Goes Out” opens tonight’s festivities with a tasty crescendo of alternate picking and a heart-throbbing drum-line. Le’Aupepe then asserts his presence by greeting all four sides of the audience and introduces the emotional “The Heart Is a Muscle”. Despite a slight echo on the vocal track, the melodies seem to have piqued the crowd’s interest as the usual chatting buzz is substituted for everyone’s undivided attention towards these special guests. “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane” is one of the first monumental highlights of the night, a song that recalls the best of The National, combined with ‘90s-era Moby.

Le’Aupepe takes some bold steps to reach out to the crowd through his inter-song banter, most of it well-received by the often static Danish audience. His appearance looks like a blend of Jack Sparrow, Jon Snow and a hint of Jim Morrison androgyny, as he serenades the crowd upon the stage floor with “Go Farther In Lightness”, followed by the danceable “Let Me Down Easy”. The Gang of Youths orchestra seems to be on point musically with a good calibration of sound, where I would like to highlight the performance of drummer Donnie Borzestowski in particular. “Magnolia” sees Le’Aupepe break the audience/performer divide by rushing down towards the crowd and eventually re-emerging in the seated section, chilling next to some random concert goers in a charming and comedic touch to tonight’s performance. Grading a support act is always difficult, as we all know that they serve a more humble purpose than their respective headliners. I therefore award a strong 8 for tonight’s performance in hopes of witnessing an even more riveting concert from them at one of their independent shows to come.

8

Mumford & Sons

As a fan of more conventional concert forms, I am skeptical toward these central stage performances. The shows tend to become more polished and accessible, like ready-made dinners or a performance on an MTV network. Tonight’s stage setup is flanked by four large screens, four bodies of audience and four stage edges, probably alluding to Mumford & Sons’ tour and album title “Delta”, which is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet and the band’s fourth release. The venue is now packed with 13,500 eager individuals ready to welcome Marcus and his companions.

Unsurprisingly “Guiding Light” from the group’s newest release sets the night off in some style. 12 years into their astounding career, Mumford & Sons have changed monumentally in their time on the stage; from their humble West London origins, the band has substituted the smaller neighbourhood venues with arenas like this one, and also headlining festival gigs. The folksy and rustic sounds of 2009’s “Sigh No More” are now more sporadically used in favour of a more brooding production, though whether you’re a fan of the début and the subsequent “Babel” from 2012, or whether you’re a new-school Mumford’ fan, tonight’s setlist is a refreshing mix of all four records and as such it should provide something for everyone. “Little Lion Man” marks the first oldie fan favourite, which inspires a commendable singalong from all parts of the audience. Following it is the sensitive “Holland Road”, after which we are treated to another folksy jammer in the form of “The Cave”.

Mumford & Sons are all brilliant musicians and adept at switching roles, with the swashbuckling energy found in both Marcus and his banjo-wielding partner Winston coming across as particularly enjoyable. The party really gets underway with the invigorating “Ditmas”, during which Marcus shows an unrelenting will to get people off their seats. He dances around rampantly, followed by a spotlight so that audience members can enjoy the spectacle on the big screens. Admittedly though, I feel that the songs featured on “Delta” are the most boring ones. I will never disregard the musicality and creativity of the Londoners, but the recent release seems to me to be a tad bit formulaic. As such, my interest admittedly peaks upon the reintroduction of the Gang of Youths band at the culmination of the initial set.

Playing “Blood” by the Australian band The Middle East, the now 13-piece ensemble play brilliantly together, and it is thoroughly enjoyable to witness Mumford & Sons use valuable setlist time for the purpose of reintroducing the Danish audience to the promising opening act. The encore also sees Mumford’ and the three other founding members perform under the dim lights through a single microphone.

The well-behaved (and quiet) Danes allow the music to speak for itself, and the intimacy reaches new heights at the onset of “Awake My Soul” and “I Will Wait” from the band’s folksy heyday. I am very grateful that the band decided to go in this direction to finish off the evening, as it is as though they have recognised the audience’s wishes for a “less is more” approach. The intricate clang of acoustic strings coupled with the raspy voice of Marcus reminds us all why we fell in love with them in the first place. The last song of the night is the eponymous “Delta” that seals the night with a shower of confetti that creates a lasting image of a commendable performance from the Britons.

Setlist:

  • 01. Guiding Light
  • 02. Little Lion Man
  • 03. Holland Road
  • 04. The Cave
  • 05. Beloved
  • 06. Lover of the Light
  • 07. Tompkins Square Park
  • 08. Woman
  • 09. Believe
  • 10. Ditmas
  • 11. Slip Away
  • 12. Picture You
  • 13. The Wolf

— Encore —

  • 14. Wild Heart
  • 15. Only Love
  • 16. Forever
  • 17. Blood (The Middle East cover)
  • 18. Awake My Soul
  • 19. I Will Wait
  • 20. Delta

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