By Sara Tucker, News Staff
As the lights went down and the curtain went up, the audience at TD Garden held its breath as those slow seconds passed before Mumford & Sons launched into their first song at last week’s concert. Eight yellow strobe lights in a semicircle above the band rose towards the ceiling, where twinkling lights flowed from one beam to another and pulsed along to the beat of the song. The banjo started playing, the bass drum kicked in and the band’s current #1 single, “I Will Wait,” began to play. The lights on the stage resembled a sun behind the group, and the crowd couldn’t help but sing along as the touching lyrics and upbeat melody of the song leapt from the stage. A collective “I will wait, I will wait for you” could be heard in every corner of the venue as the first of many great songs played.
With the 2013 Grammy for Best Album of the Year under their belt, Mumford & Sons’ 2013 tour is becoming even more popular. The tour began in Australia in mid-October, before heading to New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and finally to the US, where the band kicked off its 2013 tour at TD Garden on Feb. 5. The tour aims to promote the group’s new album, “Babel” that was released in September of last year and has become even more prominent than their first album, “Sigh No More,” which won British Album of the Year in 2011.
The group consists of Marcus Mumford (lead singer, guitar, drums), Winston Marshall (vocals, banjo), Ben Lovett (vocals, keyboard) and Ted Dwane (vocals, bass), and began in 2007 when the four got together to play a few numbers. They were each part of different bands at the time, but they worked well together as a group, and their shared love of the folk-rock sound cemented its creation.
The show started around 7 p.m., with Ben Howard and The Felice Brothers as opening acts, in front of a backdrop of the four flags found on the cover of “Babel.” Howard’s solo act took up only a few feet of the stage, a spotlight illuminating him and his guitar on a stool at center stage. He played his most popular hits, like “Old Pine,” and “Only Love,” and the crowd responded enthusiastically, some even singing a few notes. The Felice Brothers were on next, hailing from upstate New York. Brothers Simone, Ian and James Felice were much less known than Howard, but pulled sounds similar to artists like Bon Jovi, to the delight of the crowd. They got the audience clapping along to the beat in songs like “Whiskey in My Whiskey” and “Fire at the Pageant.”
The Boston show was Mumford & Sons’ first of the year after a two-month break over the holidays, and their enthusiasm to restart the tour was completely evident and irresistibly contagious. As the openers finished and Mumford’s crew prepared the stage, the audience waited restlessly for the headliner to begin. The lights finally dimmed around 9:30 p.m., accompanied by the roar of the crowd. After “I Will Wait” came “Babel,” and as the chorus began, the band was almost drowned out by the sound of the crowd, many of whom sang right along with the group. “Babel” was followed by a few of the hits from their first album, “Sigh No More,” like “Little Lion Man,” “Winter Winds” and “Timshel.”
As the main set came to a close, the audience cheered for an encore for several minutes before the group came out on the 6×6 platform behind the soundboard. Those standing in front of the stage raced back to the platform to try and get close to the band, dozens of people holding up phones and cameras, reaching hands out to be touched by the group. There they sang “Reminder,” a slow folk song from “Babel,” with only their voices, a guitar, and a single microphone to reach out over all the people. Marcus Mumford implored at the beginning of the song, “If you’ve been wanting all night to scream something, now is not the time.” The song was slow and halting, with each man fighting to make his voice heard in the little mic, but it was incredibly moving. They headed backstage to screams louder than before, and hit the main stage one last time after a few minutes for the popular, “Roll Away Your Stone.”
The band was arguably better live than on the album, and different opinions about the show could be heard on the way out, anything from “best concert ever” to “pretty great” to “incredible.” Whatever the opinions of even the most critical in attendance, one thing was clear: the show was an absolute hit.