Mumford & SonsWhen: Aug. 7, 8 p.m.Where: B.C. PlaceTickets and info: From $59.50, at ticketmaster.ca
Mumford & Sons performing in Montreal in March 2019.
For one of the world’s biggest bands, Mumford and Sons receive an unusual degree of vitriol from media and online haters.Black Mirror creator Charlie Broom dubbed the band “trust fund wurzels.” RateYourMusic.com turned the New Authentic genre name attached to the band’s acoustic-driven, folk-tinged tunes into the New Boring and then rated them below Adele, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith in a list of the 10 worst offenders in the musical movement.New Music Express even got a dig in, reporting about fashion brand Rustic Authentics launching a range inspired by the band’s look, querying who out there would want to sport “that Amish farmhand look?”The last time a group at the top of the charts took this kind of flak might be Queen, when Rolling Stone reviewer David Marsh called the band’s 1979 album Jazz “fascist.”That didn’t hurt Queen’s sales, and the rhetoric hasn’t hurt Mumford & Sons either. Each successive album since 2009’s Sigh No More has been a mega-seller.The group’s fourth album Delta, released in November 2018, became the group’s third No. 1 entry on the Billboard 200 chart. Released on Gentlemen of the Road/Glassnote Records, Billboard reported that first-week sales (230,000) were the highest for any alternative rock album in 2018. The lead single Guiding Light stayed in the top airplay spot of Adult Alternative Songs for over a month. Nothing in the back catalogue has made it under top 10.Related
Which is why Mumford & Sons’ Delta tour is likely to be one of the biggest of the year and sees the combo that last played in B.C. Place opening for U2 headlining with Portugal. The Man opening.Banjo and guitar player Winston Marshall said it’s still surprising to him, singer and founder Marcus Mumford, guitarist Ted Dwane and drummer Ben Lovett that the group rose to the heights it has as quickly as it did.“Canada has been very good to us right from the beginning, when we played a patio at the Peak radio station,” said Marshall.“In fact, that 2017 slot opening for U2 in Vancouver was our first ever stadium show. And they are pretty much the guys to learn about what playing that kind of room entails because our roots are where we started, which was as an intimate-setting pub band.”Active in the nascent London British folk revival, the band didn’t stay in pubs long as songs such as Little Lion Man, Winter Winds and The Cave — arguably still the most played single — hit the right note with a global fan base.Babel, released in 2012, took home the album of the year Grammy and the band toured incessantly, playing many markets more than once on the lengthy tour. Wiped out and ready to change gears, they took a long break before releasing 2015’s Wilder Mind, which introduced a much wider instrumental selection including electronics and more standard pop-rock production.The about-face from that album was the Johannesburg EP (recorded with African star Baba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenburg) which embraced new levels of rhythmic complexity and atmosphere. Delta seems to capture all of the above, and more.“This band is always up for a challenge, but what’s consistent is that we make music that we are excited about, no matter what influences might find their way into it,” said Marshall.“We take immense pride in our dedication to the songwriting and you can hear that consistency if you listen through it. The other thing is Marcus’s remarkable voice, which I just can’t ever take for granted as being one of, if not the, key to the success.”
Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons.
Dario Ayala /
Another key to the sound is Marshall’s banjo, an instrument becoming as ubiquitous in pop today as the ukulele did last decade. In tracks such as Woman, the instrument is layered over itself to create a shimmering effect that shuffles on almost like a trip hop beat.“That is what happens when you go through a few hundred pedals in the studio, and it was a bit of a nightmare getting to it with the engineer Riley McIntyre, who is a Canadian from your neck of the woods,” he said.“Live, it’s achieved somewhat different, because the recording was such a constant exploration of making the instrument sound unlike it had before. So it’s quite different in concert, but I like that it becomes something new that way and still cool.”The sessions for Delta incorporated the “old instruments” of the Sigh No More era — banjo, standup bass and so on — but in ways to make them assume new sonic dimensions.Marshall said the idea was articulated by Lovett and all agreed it worked very well for the album. But, like all ideas, there are ups and downs to the approach.“It’s great because it gets you back into the instrument, which you might have forgotten about a bit,” he said. “The downside is, with all the relentless touring, you wind up being glued to your banjo for months on end, and I get bored of things. You want to do something new and different.”And sometimes you want to do something traditional. Such is the case with the tune Wild Heart, which is about as close to an acoustic performance in a pub corner as Delta gets. Marshall said the song was recorded live to be expanded upon later and, upon playback, the band agreed it wasn’t going to get any better.The song seems to land somewhere in the track list where a pause is required. Mumford had commented in an interview that Delta encompassed the four D’s: death, divorce, drugs and depression. This description might not be the first to come to mind when describing Mumford & Sons’ music.“I don’t think that there is a human on Earth who doesn’t suffer is some way, and we all have periods in which there is more or less of it going on,” he said. “I think that it’s the human condition, and keep in mind that this album covered four years of writing from four people — 16 years of life between the four of us — so a lot happened.”Marshall stressed that profiting from singing about the dark sides of life is not easy, and there is ample proof in the history of of pop music to support that, adding that he could debate the psychology of that for quite awhile. Marshall is interested in psychology — the band had University of Toronto Canadian professor Jordan Peterson visit them in studio during the Delta sessions, which was well reported.Related
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