Date / Venue: Tuesday November 10th, 2015 - Vector Arena, Auckland
Vector Arena in Auckland was full to the brim last night, and understandably so, with British folk heavyweights Mumford & Sons making their long awaited return to NZ shores. And what an epic return was with electric guitars, banjos, strings, horns and drums, Marcus Mumford and his boys put on a heck of a show!
Opening the show were Brisbane 5-piece indie-rock band, Art of Sleeping. Led by front man Caleb Hodges, completely at home on the stage this band's live reputation goes before them, resulting in strong instrumental hooks and ambient rhythmic textures. Their set was strong and steady as they wowed the audience with tracks from both Like A Thief and Shake and Shiver with amazing build up to the melodicUnder The Water where the lighting add to the ambience by imitating the song title. A unique cover of rapper Drake's single Hotline Bling was also on the menu, though the highlight would have been their closing trackCrazy which began slowly but erupted into an epic ballad rivalling the likes of Coldplay and Richard Ashcroft. Thoroughly enjoyable.
With a newly released 3rd album Wilder Mind, lively Londoners Mumford & Sons claimed the stage for what would almost be an epic 2 hour performance. M&S have made the bold move away from their original signature acoustic sound to a more folk-rock sound, which has definitely been met with mixed reviews. Tonight however, the new music was definitely received well if you judge the performance by the amazing light show and ecstatic response from the crowd!
They opened the show with the latest hit Snakes Eyes from the new album, which was then followed directly by Little Lion Man which is quite possibly their oldest most well known hit. The rest of the performance seemed to echo this old/new formula with the banjos, fiddles and acoustic guitars being quickly swapped for electric guitars, synths, horns and a the infamous double-base.
Thistle Marcus thanks the crowd for travelling to see them play. This of course leads to inevitable banter about the number of Aussie in the audience (i.e. "the number of people who traveled from island outside New Zealand"). Being showered with harmonious booing doesn't sway him in the least and he asks the crowd to light up the stadium and make our own little light show for the next track, Ghosts. One of the highlights of the evening and I've never seen Vector look so pretty. With the stage lights low the little torches from the seated crowd surrounding the stage reminded me of stars in the night sky. Funny, I thought to myself, iPhones can be useful at live gigs after all!
About half way through the show there was definitely a lull in the crowd which didn't go unnoticed on stage either. "Maybe it's a cultural thing or maybe you're just all really tired" exclaims Marcus out of the blue. "You can stand if you want". The power of words! Suddenly the entire stadium was up and dancing. This set the mood for the rest of the show on the main stage where they belted out song after song without even looking like they would stop. The final track Dust Bowl Dance needed the main stage performance with a spectacular light show that finished in a shower of sparks from the rigging, along with Marcus passionately "removing' one of the two drum kits from the elevated platform before leaping to the front of stage for the final few lyrics.
After a five minute break and the obligatory chant for an encore, the band popped up at the back of the area on a tiny B-Stage for an intimate acoustic rendition of Hot Gates. Sealing the deal with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's I'm on Fire. As they bid the audience farewell I had to admire their bravery. Musically speaking, this show could have gone quite wrong in many ways, but the boys pulled it off. Kudos to the folks behind the scenes as well - this was not an easy ride.
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