Live Review: Mumford and Sons with the Middle East at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 20 May 2010

By on Tuesday, 1st June 2010 at 2:00 pm

Even before I started writing reviews, I went to A LOT of gigs, and some people have always had trouble understanding the special draw of live music for me, thinking you can’t get anything live that you can’t get on the album. While some live experiences certainly fall short, when you see a truly great live band, there’s nothing that can beat it. Luckily for me (and USA Editor Mary), last Thursday’s sold out Mumford and Sons show at the legendary 9:30 Club fell into the latter category.

To start out the pretty much perfect evening, while waiting outside the venue we were treated to the incredibly rare kind of D.C. weather where it’s neither freezing nor so hot and humid you feel like you’re drowning in fondue. Once inside, the crowd was in great spirits, talking excitedly about what songs they wanted them to play and whether or not they’d heard of the opener, Australian band The Middle East. After writing up one of their videos for TGTF, I was expecting great things from them, and they didn’t disappoint. Six members strong, they played a seemingly endless number of instruments, from the flute to the accordion to something I’ve come to refer to as ‘The Jinglestick’ Combined in a myriad of ways, they created a sound that was both powerful and subtle, and incredibly enjoyable to listen to. Many of their songs are more intense live than on the album (well worth the purchase), but they really shine in slower, quieter songs like ‘Blood’ and ‘The Darkest Side’ where they make great use of their vocal harmonies.

If you’re looking for amazing harmony, though, you need look no further than West London band Mumford and Sons, consisting of  Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane. Their harmonies were flawless, whether powerful and visceral, like in crowd-pleaser ‘Little Lion Man,’ or quiet and haunting, like in the devastatingly gorgeous ‘Timshel,’ a song which left the crowd in awe. Lined up across the front of the stage with their instruments, they had a powerful stage presence, even though they barely moved from their spots. They alternately had the audience staring in rapt attention or dancing and singing along, and the transition between the two was never jarring. Even their new songs, ‘Nothing,’ ‘Lover of the Light’ and ‘Whispers in the Dark’ went down well, and their sparse attempts at banter were pretty hilarious. At one point they asked whether Washington, D.C. was in the North or the South, eliciting outraged shouts on both sides – it’s right in the the middle of the two, and we’ve never been able to choose one. They then joked about Southerners and guns, saying that where they’re from, they are Southerners, quipping, “please don’t shoot us when we leave!”

Other than during ‘Roll Away Your Stone, ‘(enjoy the official video below) when the Middle East rushed the stage wearing nothing but their pants and started banging on percussion instruments, the highlight of the evening was crowd favorite ‘White Blank Page.’ Lead singer Marcus Mumford sang it with a lot of emotion, and the crowd sang along with every word. By the time they reached the long, drawn-out “heart”s at the end of the song, the audience felt like one big family that was all in it together, singing along with the band. The 9:30 Club was the perfect venue for them –  it manages to hold a large number of people while retaining a cozy feel, and it always attracts a good crowd – and they seemed to realize that. They commented several times throughout the night that they had been looking forward to this show in particular because people kept telling them how amazing the venue was, and that we were living up to their expectations. In fact, by the end of the show Marcus said “I think we’re gonna come back” – I, for one, am looking forward to it!


After the cut: Mumford and Sons set list and photos.

The Middle East photos

Mumford and Sons Set List

Sigh No More
Awake My Soul
The Cave
I Gave You All
White Blank Page
Little Lion Man
Lover of the Light*
Thistle & Weeds
Roll Away
Dust Bowl Dance
Whispers in the Dark*

* = new song

Mumford and Sons photos

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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