“We were in town to play the 400 Club [sic] about 18 months ago,” Marcus Mumford remarked early into his namesake band’s Varsity Theater show last night. “Where were all of you?! There were about seven people there … including us.”
What a difference a year and – most importantly – a boatload of airplay on the Current 89.3 can make. Banjo-spiked British folk-rockers Mumford and Sons not only played to a packed and jungle-sweaty crowd at the Varsity, it earned a truly rabid and ecstatic response. I had three separate but strong cases of déjà vu at the show: All the hippie-happy pogo-dancing to all the hippie-hyper banjo picking – especially for “The Cave” near the start and “Roll Away the Stone” near the end -- reminded me of any Avett Brothers gig. The near-emergency-level lack of air-conditioning reminded me of Phoenix’s Varsity show in the full heat of last summer (the Varsity has upgraded it’s a.c. since then, but apparently they don’t turn it on until after Memorial Day). And the Current-attuned crowd was reminiscent of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ Varsity gig this past winter, not just demographics-wise but in the way fans greeted the band like a great new discovery -- and how they knew the lyrics to many more songs than just "the hit," which was played exactly midshow ("Little Lion Man").
Personally, I thought a few of the songs from the band’s breakout album, “Sigh No More,” sounded lyrically sophomoric and musically redundant, including “I Gave You All” and the melodramatic “Thistle & Weeds.” ‘Twas just a lot of the same bleeding-heart, pounding-strings fare. However, the band played a handful of new songs that were among the best of the night and really suggested these guys are bound for bigger things, including the stormy encore finale "Whisper in the Dark" and the elegant and Coldplay-ish (in a good way) "Lover of the Light." With songs like that, I don’t think Mumford & Co. will be returning to the 400 Bar or even the Varsity anytime soon.