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Magna • Whether drawn by Mumford & Sons' banjo-heavy sound, literate lyrics or reputation as a rousing live act, an enthusiastic but well-mannered crowd packed the back lawn of the 3,500-capacity Great Saltair on Wednesday to hear the British folk-rock quartet's first Utah appearance. It was a winner.
The band's lyrics, and frontman Marcus Mumford's singing, are characterized by an earnestness that can teeter toward self-indulgence on recordings. But in concert, that earnestness becomes exhilarating, as those who witnessed the band's breakout performance on last year's Grammy Awards can attest.
Mumford and his bandmates Ben Lovett on keyboards, Country Winston Marshall on banjo and other string instruments, Ted Dwane on standup bass, and a backing ensemble of a fiddler, a percussionist and three brass players are generous musicians who held nothing back in their 90-minute, 16-song set.
Mumford & Sons are also savvy showmen, taking the stage in darkness to the strains of "Not in Nottingham" from Disney's animated "Robin Hood." (The band has been known to cover the song, but used the Roger Miller recording on Wednesday.)
With the crowd thus rendered itchy with anticipation, Mumford's voice rang powerfully out of the darkness on "Lover's Eyes," from the forthcoming album "Babel."
The show kicked into high gear with a pair of stirring singles from debut album "Sigh No More." "Little Lion Man" and "Roll Away Your Stone" had the audience singing and stamping along as real-time, black-and-white video of the band played on a large screen to the right of the stage. The energy level remained high for the duration of the evening, whether on lively rockers such as the new single "I Will Wait" or more contemplative songs such as "Timshel," which featured some striking harmony singing by the quartet. No matter how hard-driving the music, Mumford's crisp diction made every word clear.
A spirited performance of "Awake My Soul" featured Lovett pounding away on an upright piano and Mumford on drums, leading into an impassioned performance of "Dust Bowl Dance" that featured a particularly frenzied solo by Marshall. The concert closed on a triumphant note with one of the band's biggest hits, "The Cave," which summarized Mumford & Sons' appeal in a nutshell: It isn't every day you see a crowd joyfully singing along to a banjo-driven song inspired by Homer.
Opening the show were British folk-rock duo Slow Club, which closed its brief set with the most polite invitation to mosh ever issued (the crowd half-heartedly obliged), and Denver-based alt-rocker Nathaniel Rateliff. Mumford & Sons
The British folk-rockers thrill the Saltair crowd with a high-powered set.
Where • The Saltair, Magna
When • Wednesday, Aug. 22 Mumford & Sons setlist
Little Lion Man
Roll Away Your Stone
White Blank Page
Below My Feet
I Gave You All
I Will Wait
Lover of the Light
Thistle & Weeds
Ghosts That We Knew
Awake My Soul
Dust Bowl Dance
After the Storm