Mumford & Sons – Le Bikini, Toulouse, France 19/3/13

After being Underwhelmed by ‘2 Door Cinema Club’, Amber continues her Toulouse gigging adventures…….

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This was a hotly anticipated gig and a coup for Le Bikini to bag such a big band. Mumford and Sons are not played on French radio stations, hence them being booked into the relatively small venue of Le Bikini.

We were treated to two support bands.

The first was Jesse Quin, bass player with Keane, member of Laura Marlings band and Mumford and Sons collaborator. He played a sweet acoustic set. Unfortunately the crowd were already rowdy, highly excitable and he was unable to capture their attention. A shame as he played a quietly contemplative set.

The next support band were Deap Vally. A female duo, drummer and electric guitarist. They had a very stripped down sound, at times sounding remarkably similar to the White Stripes.

Mumford and sons are known for playing with their fellow touring artists and this gig followed the same pattern. Lindsay and Julie welcomed several members of Mumfords touring band to play with them during their gig. They both had charisma and played with a sexiness and freedom that reminded me of the wonderful Karen O. Both shoeless (and in the drummers case, trouserless) their sound didn’t quite fit with the rest of the gig and their music again wasn’t strong enough to capture the crowd.

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Mumford and Sons opened with Babel, the lead song from their Grammy award winning album of the same title.

Marcus Mumford sang lead vocals, played guitar and kick drum at the same time and later the drum kit and Mandolin.

The bass player Ted Dwayne switched between string bass, guitar and drums. He played completely in his own zone, pulling the most amazing tortuous faces in order to reach the vocal note or get the sound from whatever he was playing. The other two members; Ben Lovett, keyboard and accordion and Winston Marshall on banjo played with such energy and enjoyment they were great to watch.

Together the band played with a gusto that the audience loved. Apart from heavy rock bands at festivals I’ve rarely seen a band have to try and bring back a crowd from a point of wild excitement so they are able to listen to what is being played. Marcus was absolutely determined to calm us down so we could listen to their more contemplative tracks. You can see that the band want to be taken seriously and lyrics are important to them.

Their sense of rhythm was palpable as was the tightness and cohesion of their playing.

Despite the first album being essentially a break up album so full of loss and pain, when they play live the crowds are raucous and jumping. The band worked really hard to control the tempo at times when the crowds singing threatened to pull them out of time. You could tell they dug deep, focussed, sang and played to their own speed. Once the crowd started to calm down a little we were able to try and sing in time to the band.

They complemented their quieter tracks like Thistle and Weeds and After the storm, by playing the drums with big headed beaters for a softer sound. It allowed them to build each song to a crescendo and create a wall of sound. Drums being my thing, these were my favourite tracks and it was great to see the band play the drums so well.

The more upbeat tracks were a definite favourite with the crowd, with everyone bouncing up and down and singing along at the tops of their voices.

The ceiling of the venue was hung with strings of lights with hanging satellites behind the stage which lit up warmly. It created a distinctly British village fete marquee feel, just right for the bands’ sound, particularly during Lover of the light their most recent release

They gamely tried out their French with the crowd and did pretty well but were probably better understood when talking in English (especially by us). They very kindly said they were humbled by the reception they had received.

These fine, generous and multifaceted musicians are a tour de force live. Go and see them if you’re lucky enough to get a chance.

Setlist

Babel

I Will Wait

Whispers in the Dark

White Blank Page

Holland Road

Timshel

Little Lion Man

Lover of the Light

Thistle & Weeds

For Those Below

Ghosts That We Knew

Hopeless Wanderer

Roll Away Your Stone

Dust Bowl Dance

Encore:

Reminder

Winter Winds

The Cave

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