Mumford & Sons take STL by storm: Fantastic shows at record store and arena

For the past seven years, I have been waiting to see Mumford & Sons. Back in 2009, the song “Little Lion Man” played on a MTV commercial, and the punchy folk-filled song captured my attention. From then on, Mumford & Sons has been a staple band in my life. Their first two albums, “Sigh No More” and “Babel”, accompanied me on every car ride to school and every moment spent with my now-outdated iPod. When the band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2013, the panic that I would never see the group live took over.

However, the band’s third and most recent album, “Wilder Mind,” brought me to the Mumford promise land.  On Saturday, April 16, Mumford & Sons gave St. Louis two diverse performances. The first to a lucky hundred fans at the Loop’s record goldmine, Vintage Vinyl, and the second to almost 20,000 people at a sold-out show at Scottrade Center.

In the midst of a day full of Record Store Day deals and performances, Vintage Vinyl welcomed Mumford & Sons into their store at noon to give an exclusive performance to a select hundred fans that had preordered Mumford’s “There Will Be Time,” a limited edition 7” collaboration with Baaba Maal and The Very Best. The crowd filled the aisles between the rows of records for their performance. I was lucky enough to snag a front-row spot; a single piece of duct tape kept me arms length from the band.

When it was time to begin, the foursome simply walked onto the tiny stage. Pushing their Nashville hangovers aside, they kicked things off with “Snake Eyes,” a rock-heavy track that showcases the band’s recent transition to a different sound. Mumford played two more new songs, “Tompkins Square Park” and “Ditmas.” When the band released “Wilder Mind,” initially I was among those who were skeptical that the band was losing their signature style when they replaced the banjo and double bass with electric guitars. However, seeing Mumford in such an intimate setting and being able to focus purely on their performance without the distractions of an arena show, my doubts vanished, and my awe of them was solidified seeing them flawlessly perform.

Lead man Marcus Mumford appeared to be entranced in each song he sang, which easily allowed the crowd to get swept up in the emotions he captures in his poetic and bewitching lyrics. The performance would have been incomplete without the rest of the talented bunch—Ben Lovett on the keyboards, Winston Marshall on the electric guitar and Ted Dwane on the bass. The group knows how to make their energy come together in even the smallest of settings.

Only originally scheduled for three songs, the band treated the audience to a bonus song, a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.” The crowd cheered and sang along to Mumford’s twist on the Springsteen classic. During their set, the band said that this was their first time performing at a record store in four years, and Marcus remarked: “Who needs fancy productions? This is way more fun.” Even though Mumford & Sons have reached an ultimate level of fame and success, they still treat their fans to special small sets that showcase the talent that got them to where they are now.

Flashing forward to nine hours later, Mumford & Sons took to the stage at Scottrade Center, an arena 65 times bigger than their earlier St. Louis performance. Again, they started their show with “Snake Eyes,” which proved that a song that earlier entertained a small record store could also boldly capture the attention of an entire arena. After their first song, Mumford & Sons played “Little Lion Man,” and the crowd went wild, jumping and screaming the words to their original hit, right along with the band.

Throughout the night’s performance, Mumford & Sons did an impressive job of balancing their setlist with a plentiful number of songs from their first two albums and newer tracks from “Wilder Mind.” Their earlier hits, “Broken Crown,” “The Cave” and “Awake My Soul” had the entire crowd singing along and highlighted Mumford’s ability to make tracks that start out simple, but end bursting with energy and passion.

When the band took a few moments to slow it down, with “Below My Feet” and “Ghosts That We Knew,” the audience was silent, enamored with their raw emotion. When the band switched to their new material, with tracks like “Believe” and “Wilder Mind,” the crowd still went crazy. During “Ditmas,” frontman Marcus proved his rock star status by wildly running through half of the arena, which is no surprise coming from the charismatic, drunken Mumford.

After an intense and explosive performance of “Dust Bowl Dance,” the band returned for their encore on a small stage in the middle of the arena. With one microphone and one guitar, the group performed “Timshel” and one of their best tracks from “Wilder Mind,” “Cold Arms.” While the band bantered about hockey, the rowdy St. Louis crowd shouted “Let’s go Blues.” Mumford misheard the chant as “boo’s” and sarcastically told the crowd to “shut the f*** up” since we weren’t at a hockey game—Mumford unfiltered kept the true fans laughing.

The group returned back to the main stage for their final songs. After two hours of performing, Mumford & Sons still managed to give their all with the last two hits, “I Will Wait” and “The Wolf,” making for a perfect end to a thrilling night.

Whether it is a small record store or massive hockey arena, Mumford & Sons know how to put on a show. Though they have reached the milestone where their intimate performances are rare, Mumford’s music easily fills the largest of rooms. Their energy and talent will make the wait to see them worth it, even if it’s seven years.