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Mumford and Sons' live gig proved their old ways were best

The classics were well-received, but some of the newer releases fell flat.

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Michelle Grace Hunder

Despite the cacophony of disdain that often dominates discussion of Mumford and Sons, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was filled to the brim for their second Melbourne show.

Strikingly, this was the most diverse crowd I’ve ever seen. With more than 12,000 people of all ages and walks united by their love for Mumford and his sons, the sheer size of the crowd was awe-inspiring.

The band seemed to appreciate this. From the moment they entered the venue, hustling to a b-stage situated between the lawn and bowl itself, they were completely in the moment, and their delight in this individual show was palpable. The setlist was impossible to predict (trust me, I tried) and was entirely different to any of their recent shows. This commitment to tailor their shows and keep them unique was impressive, creating an intimate atmosphere in such a grand, sweeping venue.

But flawless atmosphere aside, the fault in this show lay in the music itself. The British four-piece are at their best when as cheesily, authentically folk as possible — frantic guitars and banjo, foot stomping and double bass plucking. This was on display as early as possible at their second Melbourne show, opening the set with 'Sigh No More' and 'Little Lion Man' from a b-stage next to the bar, before the great expanse of lawn before them.

Unfortunately, during 'If I Say', it became apparent the band's older material – tracks from Sigh No More and Babel – pops in a way their more recent work cannot compete with, and that they are intent on toning back their traditional folk elements when doing so. 'Delta' and 'Wilder Mind' dominated the setlist, and as a result, almost the entire midsection of the set blurred into one, bloated stretch of mediocrity. They did attempt to spice things up with pyrotechnics and light displays, but they were nothing remarkable, seeming out of place and ill-timed.

That being said, the show was punctuated with some of the most impressively engaging live renditions of tracks that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, and those moments were pure magic. Tracks like 'White Blank Page', 'The Cave', and 'I Will Wait', were true, life-affirming, dancing-in-the-aisles, bliss.

Watching the band flit up and down the stairs, weaving through the crowd, was simply joyful. They truly used the whole of the venue, and though I was lucky enough to have some of the best seats in the house, there was no doubt even those at the very back of the lawn, where I’ve sat many a time before, were having just as much fun.

Late last year, frontman Marcus Mumford labelled this tour the band’s most ambitious yet. Though ambition is never a bad thing, perhaps this aspirational energy could be focused into other areas than pyrotechnics for the sake of it. For it’s the folk roots of Mumford and Sons that make them so gosh darn fun to watch and listen to, and what will keep thousands flocking to see them for tours and tours to come.

Highlight: The show beginning with a tour debut of Sigh No More.

Lowlight: Though they gathered around a single microphone for a rendition of 'Timshel', they continued to sing two more songs in the same fashion, and it just dragged.

Crowd favourite: Marcus Mumford’s charming, flirty, on-stage persona.