They say every cloud has a silver lining, and last night that saying certainly came true in the form of a spectacular Mumford and Sons concert at Belvoir Amphitheatre. If you’re a little confused by that statement, let me explain. I recently had a somewhat short lived relationship with a certain person, let’s call her Ms X, which came to an end when I was promptly dumped soon after giving up a whole weekend to help her out at work and to move house. Whatever, I love missing out on fun, helping someone and then being dumped like a load of used wrapping paper after Christmas, the important thing is that I’m not bitter at all. Anyway, during the brief time we were together we purchased tickets to Mumford and Sons, something I was unlikely to have done if I was single being as I wasn’t really that in to them at the time and it seemed like more of a “date” type thing than anything else. So, after we parted ways Ms X was magnanimous enough to say that I could have the tickets if I wanted them, and so it transpired that myself, my brother Tim (who already had a ticket) and his friend Zander (who took the spare) ended up heading out to Belvoir last night to catch the show. Granted it was not the type of company I had initially envisioned when purchasing the tickets, but hey, that’s life no?
Offering my services as driver for the evening (see what a nice guy I am! Some people don’t know what they’re missing out on) we pulled in to the car park armed with a selection of snacks, bin bags to sit on to avoid wet bums and plastic ponchos to protect against the forecast brief showers. When attending an outdoor concert it’s all about pre-planning people, and when the inclement weather did hit later on, I doubt the girls in skin-tight minidresses, heels and no jackets that were walking in in front of us were quite as comfortable as we were, or looking as quite as glamorous as they would have hoped either. Once inside we found a comfy spot with a decent view and settled in to enjoy the night. For those of you that haven’t been to Belvoir, it is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular outdoor venues in the city, with large, tiered grassy embankments facing a stage framed by gum trees and the starry night sky. It also has good facilities, well at least it has on the occasions I’ve been, with bars, toilets and food and drink stands close by and easily accessible (provided you don’t try and go between acts like every other man and his dog).
Willie Mason was the first act, and while I have to admit I’d never heard of him before, his solo act of soulful country interspersed with a laid back American drawl made for a good, relaxed opening to the evening’s proceedings. Following him were Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Comprising eleven band members(2 drummers, piano, keys/trumpet, 2 guitars, 2 percussionists, bass and 2 vocals), the Zeros ply a rollicking form of soul and gospel infused country folk and whose toe-tappin’ high energy show is certainly something to behold. As is often the case with large bands, their infectious energy comes across so much more in person than it does on album, and their set had a fair section of the crowd up and moving, and those that weren’t grooving along from a seated position. Particular highlights were the set closer ‘Home’ and during ‘That’s What’s Up’ when vocalists Jade and Alexander spontaneously ventured out in to the crowd, something which I didn’t realise was happening until Jade suddenly appeared behind me as I was taking photos of the stage. Thus, being as I had my zoom lens on and was taken completely by surprise, I have some great but quite blurry photos of this. All in all a very fun show and an act I’d recommend keeping an eye on.
The joyful gaiety of the Magnetic Zeros over it was on to the main act. Taking the stage to thunderous applause, Mr Mumford and the boys proceeded to deliver a breath-taking performance of their trademark folk grandeur. Considering that it was, for the most part, just four people playing they managed a deep, thunderous sound. But far from just noise, it was rich and textured, and the lads were able to dial it back to a more subtle, delicate delivery when the situation called for it. Marcus Mumford led the proceedings by playing guitar with gusto and delivering his lyrics with a great deal of passion and feeling, often also keeping time with only a floor mounted kick drum and tambourine. It was a spectacular performance, simple and honest while at the same time intricate and multi-layered. Hit such as ‘Little Lion Man’ and ‘I Will Wait’ were received rapturously as you would expect, but my favourite moment was their extended rendition of ‘Thistle and Weeds’ which built from a moody, atmospheric introduction into a brooding, Bad Seeds-esque number that peaked with a crescendo that had an almost War of the Worlds vibe. Awesome.
It was a great night without doubt, but I also have to add that its significance for me went beyond the spectacle of witnessing some good performances. If you’re a sceptical old man like myself, you sometimes wonder about the state of the world and the way things are progressing, especially when it comes to music. Don’t get me wrong, there has always and will always be good music made, but in terms of popular music consumed on a mass scale it seems that almost everything has been consumed by a tidal wave of mindless, generic, auto-tuned drivel. Yet last night I sat down and watched one of the biggest bands in the world play honest, emotive music they’d written themselves. They were songs that spoke of heartache and love and emotion. They were, dare I say it, real. There was even a banjo, mandolin and an accordion all on stage at the same time for crying out loud! So while the whole process of coming across the tickets didn’t exactly restore my faith in relationships, the concert itself did go a long way to restoring my faith in popular music, and that surely has to be a silver lining if there ever was one.
After fighting our way out of the traffic melee that was leaving the car park at Belvoir, I decided that I’d take the lads past Alfred’s Kitchen in Guilford for a burger on the way home to round off the evening. It’s a fantastic, quirky little joint just alongside the train line that primarily does burgers and has an awesome fire pit out the front around which to sit, chat and consume your food, which was perfect for the chilly weather on the evening we attended. I went for the chilli burger, which being a normal burger with some chilli sauce smeared on the bun actually wasn’t much to speak of, but the Alfred’s Special that Timmy and Zander had was certainly something to behold. Comprising of a beef patty, egg, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onions, sauce and gherkin spread layered between 3 slices of toasted white bread, haute cuisine it certainly aint, but it certainly hits the spot after a concert and a few drinks (according to the boys anyway, I’d like to state here for the record that one was sober as a judge due to one’s duties as designated driver and all-round-nice-guy). Bonus points are also awarded for having two beautiful old wood fired stoves on which they prepare some of their food, which I’d venture is quite a rarity in commercial kitchens these days, and more’s the pity.
P.S: I took a load more photos of the gig, so if you want to check them out like the blog on facebook and have a gander at the gallery.