Mumford and Sons Review
It is insanely expensive renting in Cape Town’s City Bowl. Not only that, but traffic can also be really hectic, and going for a swim after work mostly turns out in an hour-long wait in the traffic up Kloof Nek. But one of the biggest perks? You can walk to a Mumford and Sons concert in the middle of the city…
I thought it might not happen. I mean, with the rand plummeting and people struggling to pay rent – let alone pay for concert tickets! – but Hilltop Live did it. They brought us Mumford and Sons – six glorious shows!
Lucky locals John Wizards, The Very Best and Beatenberg were chosen as the opening acts. It was a perfect summer night in Cape Town and the local acts enjoyed a big crowd as the gates opened early for a sold out show. The city slowly but surely became alive with glistening skyscrapers standing tall against beautiful Table Mountain as we entered the venue.
We chose Beatenberg as the perfect time to stand for some drinks. And by ‘stand’ I mean, we stood in an hour long queue — and there were three thick, long queues stretched over the parade! Once in front, though, we stocked a carton box up with beer and ciders – there were no way to brace the bar a second time. Despite the long queues, the Gentlemen of Road and Hilltop chose the perfect venue. The parade was alive with fans walking around, the atmosphere tingling with the excitement of the Mumford men being with us already, backstage preparing for their first show in the Mother City. And as the sun set behind Cape Town’s skyline, Marcus Mumford and the sons appeared on stage.
It feels like I’ve seen a live show of them before, looking at the amount of times I’ve watched their Red Rocks concert. But nothing could prepare me for what I witnessed on the parade.
Did Marcus and the rest of the band go from folky, suspender-wearing gentlemen to a rock band overnight? I don’t know, but it suits them well. The 4-piece seems a bit like a metaphor of the current times – the festivals, the music, the fashion, the mindsets. Thank goodness then that they found their rock ‘n roll roots in songs like “Wolf” and “Ditmas”. On “Lover of the Light”, Mumford shifted over to the drums, executing perfectly. I kept looking at the giant screens next to the stage, while someone noted to me to look at them on stage instead, “you’ve seen them on screens”, and I have so many times, but I kept looking at that passion on their faces, the enthusiasm of Ted Dwane while playing his cello, and the reaction to the crowd that can only be seen on those screens.
They played some new material, but the crowd came looking for the older banjo-ey tunes of before, and the Mumfords offered it wholly – like on those Youtube videos, but better. Their acoustic instruments filled the Cape Town city bowl while the crowd looked in awe at the swaying, playing 4-piece.
Every now and then Marcus rubbed his eyes. Was it the sharp lights, the heat from a South African summer or was he so exalted by the support that he shed a few tears? Whatever it was, he rested his arms on his guitar for a moment and looked at the crowd, “Cape Town, we’ve always wanted to play for you!”. The thousands responded in cheer. I do believe that most internationals say something along those lines at every show, but I really did believe Marcus.
The production was grotesque; the sound and lighting perfectly rigged – exactly how you do an outdoor event. I couldn’t picture the 4 musicians in an indoor venue. On the parade, under the Gentlemen of the Road flags and banners and a canopy of stars, one of the most successful international bands of recent years rocked the bowl (armed with a bit of a metamorphosis), and rocked it pretty good. They shared some classic anthems mixed with easy-on-the-ear new material for new Mumford fans and die-hards.
After a brief break, they returned to offer the crowd “Little Lion Man”. I didn’t mind that I was spilling my hard-earned, long-queue-standing beer, I wanted to dance to that song performed live for so long. And it was worth it. As a final gift to the crowd, they performed two songs with Baaba Maal and some other musicians. How cliche to say I felt proudly South African, or even African, but what else can I speak but the truth?
The entire experience exceeded my expectations by miles. I didn’t know what to expect, and I’m sure they didn’t either. So, somewhere in between that uncertainty they blew the minds of every Capetonian lucky enough to witness that first show.