Marcus Mumford pours out his heart at a sold-out Anthem on Nov. 2, 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)
In the last decade, there have been a small number of songwriters, influenced by those masters of the craft, who have, in their own right, gone on to create some unforgettable pieces of music. Marcus Mumford, the principal songwriter of the band Mumford & Sons, is certainly at the top of that list, not only through his output with that band but now with a debut solo album, entitled (self-titled), released last month to critical acclaim.
In interviews, Marcus Mumford has stated that there was no goal of creating a solo record, but through the process of working through buried trauma with the first song on the record being the heart-rending “Cannibal,” a song that he’s described as a way of processing his own abuse, eventually led to songs that are more personal than previous Mumford & Sons songs but are no less powerful in the way they are delivered; with a voice that is as strong now — and perhaps more so — than ever before. And on a beautiful Wednesday night to a sold-out crowd, Marcus Mumford offered up these new songs and then some at The Anthem in DC.
Opening up this Nov. 2 evening were The A’s — Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig aka Daughter of Swords both of whom are two-thirds of the group Mountain Man along with Molly Erin Sarle. The duo was spell-binding with their impeccable harmonies in a way that had a way of taking your mind off those worries we all seem to have in abundance these days.
Stepping onto the stage, just himself and an acoustic guitar, Marcus Mumford proceeded to start off his set with two Mumford & Sons tunes: “Awake My Soul” and the hit single from their first album, “The Cave.” Both songs, sans full band, had the seemingly contradictory effect of amplifying those songs by stripping away the other parts — leaving the lyrics bare to show their own power.
As he announced the arrival of his backing band, Mumford began on the lead song from (self-titled), “Cannibal,” as he finger-picked the chords that were punctuated by that quietly powerful voice before the band kicked in on the cresting tail of the song with an explosion of sound, Mumford’s voice riding atop the cacophonous wave. The band followed up with “Grace,” which felt more in the vein of traditional Americana-tinged songs of Mumford & Sons but with the heft of heavy guitars and massive drum sounds, served up by Dawes drummer Griffin Goldsmith.
“Who is actually from DC?,” to which a decent number of people clapped. “Now who is not from DC?,” Mumford followed up, to which a much larger applause went up. “You should thank the people of DC for having us, probably. And most of you, permanently, it seems,” he said to much laughter and, I might add, more agreement from the crowd.
Talking of his own stage banter, Marcus mused, “My chat has been really stinking.” “And for some reason at the beginning of this tour, it’s been a binary choice between silence and becoming an apologist for the c-bomb,” cheekily explaining that “one of the great things you can be called by an Irishman is a ‘good cunt’.”
Watch the official music video for “Cannibal” by Marcus Mumford on YouTube:
“This song’s about being an only child,” he said wryly. “I’m not an only child” he followed up before sliding into “Only Child,” a song reminiscent of old Paul Simon tunes but with that Marcus Mumford twist. But one of the best songs on the new album is “Dangerous Game,” one that sticks in the crevices of your mind, and witnessing it live seemed to have an energy that elevated it to another plain with Mumford’s piercing voice highlighted in the chorus.
“I think you’re the sweetest crowd we’ve had.” Although billed as a “seated show,” as he humorously explained, “It’s been really interested seeing people in these seated rooms, and in Chicago we’ve almost had a proper fucking riot because exactly 50% of the people wanted to stand, and exactly 50% wanted to sit, and democracy is a bitch!” But things this night seemed to go pretty swimmingly.
When Marcus came back to the stage for the encore, he said he was going to try something different. Without using the microphone or having his guitar plugged into the PA, he walked to the edge of the stage to sing “I Will Wait,” the Mumford & Sons hit, before calling on the crowd to sing along, as the sound filled up the enormous hall.
During the encore, Marcus brought back out The A’s Amelia and Alexandra to cover the Taylor Swift song, “cowboy like me,” which he sang with Swift on the album Evermore to celebrate “Taylor Swift Week,” and then back out again for The New Basement Tapes (a project he along with Elvis Costello, Taylor Goldsmith, Rhiannon Giddens, and Jim James recorded music to the lyrics of Bob Dylan)
In a really moving evening with plenty of laughs to be shared, Marcus Mumford put on one heck of a show and one not to miss. He and his band continue their tour wrapping up in the USA and then off to several dates in the UK.
The setlist included: Awake My Soul (Mumford & Sons) The Cave (Mumford & Sons) Cannibal Grace Prior Warning Better Off High Only Child Dangerous Game Better Angels Go in Light Stonecatcher How Encore: I Will Wait (Mumford & Sons) (solo, unplugged) cowboy like me (Taylor Swift) (with The A's) Not Dark Yet (Bob Dylan) When I Get My Hands on You (The New Basement Tapes) Kansas City (The New Basement Tapes) (with The A's)
Here are more photos of Marcus Mumford performing at The Anthem on Nov. 2, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.
And here are photos of The A’s, opening the evening at The Anthem on Nov. 2, 2022.