Such was the case with Mumford and Sons on August 28th as they hit the stage for their first of two nights at Red Rocks. Natives to Colorado who frequent Red Rocks concerts are used to artists expressing gratitude just being able to play at such a legendary venue, and Marcus Mumford and company were no exceptions. While simply playing a show at Red Rocks is humbling to most, for Mumford and Sons it was also added pressure as both nights were filmed for inclusion in a documentary/concert film documenting their journey to this acoustic landmark. In fact, the projection screen on the right side of the stage showed some of the best footage you have ever seen at a concert, giving a good indication of the quality of what is to come with their film.
Besides putting on a lively, well-paced show, Mumford and Sons also previewed music from their just-released sophomore release Babel. Footage from the August 28th performance of their new single “I Will Wait” was released as the official video less than two weeks later (see above video). In fact, the Mumford boys played about half of Babel at Red Rocks almost a month prior to the album’s release, and yet the new songs fit right in with the familiar tracks that the crowd knew very well.
For me, the familiarity of new songs to a listener who has never heard them can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes from an instantaneous acceptance of the new material, but the curse comes in casual listeners not necessarily being able to discern one song from another. However, when listening to Babel, it is a small complaint for an otherwise stellar album.
When “I Will Wait” was released, many fans felt that the Mumfords were lightening up a bit, but the main themes of dealing with the struggles of life both in outward and inward interactions are still intact. While “I Will Wait” sounds like an upbeat song, the theme of asking forgiveness for some transgression and waiting for that forgiveness is not exactly uplifting. In fact, asking for forgiveness appears a few times on Babel, most notably on highlight “Lover of the Light,” where Marcus states “I have done wrong, so build your tower,” and “Ghosts That We Knew,” with its shameful “and close my eyes from my recent disgrace.”
If you want to pay a few more dollars and pick up the Deluxe Edition of Babel, you will be rewarded with what I believe is the best cover version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” that I’ve ever heard. With original singer Paul Simon on the track and renowned steel guitarist Jerry Douglas providing a haunting accompaniment, Marcus Mumford proves he is just as adept at singing a straight-ahead story as he is in a song shrouded in metaphors. The world-weariness of Mumford’s vocals adds a grittiness to the boxer’s tale, making this remake a great companion to the shiny delivery of Simon and Garfunkel’s original.
Mumford and Sons have picked right up where they left off with debut disc Sigh No More and now have a rabid fan following that will embrace Babel and sing along with every track. From the rollicking title cut to the touching closer “Not with Haste,” both existing fans and newcomers will find something to embrace and love.