I like Mumford and Sons. A lot. I have seen them perform in 3 of the 4 continents I have lived in. I once drove 510 miles in -5 degrees, to a sold out show in Philly in the hopes that the ticket scouts would be kind. Their $250 / ticket ‘price’ wasn’t kind so I had to drink wine instead. However, Mumford and Sons made up for it the next month in Montreal (and Philly is a pretty cool city anyway!)
This past weekend I saw Mumford and Sons during their first ever stint in South Africa. Apparently they have been wanting to come here for a while but haven’t been able to manage it logistically. Originally their tour dates consisted of just 3 dates across the 3 main cities. These shows sold out in less than a minute forcing them to add more dates to keep fans who have ‘been waiting 7 years’ to see them, happy!
This is the first time I have seen a favourite band here in South Africa. In fact, I haven’t seen much live music at all whereas living elsewhere gigs have always been a large part of my life. So there there was something special about combining familiarity with a new experience. I felt like I was home.
It continues to amaze me how music can invoke such strong emotions and take you right back to a different time or transport you overseas to somewhere miles away. This show was an emotional rollercoaster for me, bringing up a range of feelings I wasn’t expecting and reminding me of highs and lows over the past few years.
The stage for their Cape Town shows was set in the Grand Parade, the oldest public square, lying next to the Castle of Good Hope. This is the first place where Nelson Mandela addressed South Africans following his release from prison in 1990 then again following his election as president on 9 May 1994. In such an iconic setting, how could a concert be anything other than magical?
Outdoors gigs are always a risk, not just because of the weather (although this is peak summer in South Africa) but because of the sound. All the necessary preparations can be made but if the winds picks up or the rain starts coming down, the carefully planned acoustics fall apart. We were lucky, amidst a crowd of thousands, we spent a warm and still summer evening listening to Mumford with perfect acoustics.
A personal favourite of mine is ‘Little Lion man’ which I was sure would be played early on in the set, especially when Marcus Mumford asked us if we were ready to dance. However, they kept us in suspense until the second to last song. With classics including ‘Ghosts That we Know’, ‘Awake My Soul’ and ‘I Will Wait’, making their appearance, the boys kept us engaged and wanting more. Their well known hits were spread out amongst the lesser known tracks, with a lot of focus on their 2015 album, Wilder Minds. This gig really bought that album to life for me with ‘Tompkins Square Park’ being my newest song to play on repeat.
With all members standing around one mic, asking for quiet from the crowd, the evening’s rendition of ‘Cold Arms’ was piercing; their voices carrying across the evening and over their attentive audience.
Before coming on stage Mumford were supported by a whole gang of artists:
John Wizards – a 6 piece South African band from Cape Town who have been performing since 2010.
The Very Best – a collaboration between London-based DJ/production duo Radioclit and Esau Mwamwaya, a Malawian singer; combining dance hip hop and pop with traditional Malawian rhythms.
Beatenberg – a 3 man South African pop band also from Cape Town.
In addition to their local support artists, Mumford’s collaboration with local artist Baaba Maal set this show apart from others. Baaba Maal is a Senegalese singer and guitarist born on the Senegal River. When Mumford came back on for their anticipated encore they bought Baaba Maal and The Very Best back on with them. As one big group, they performed a cover of Baaba Maai’s song Lampenda as well as their own ‘There Will Be Time’ a new single, apparently being released only in South Africa. While having the traditional Mumford vibe this track also has a hint of Africa in it too. It’s something truly special.
The gig was run on a totally cashless system once you were inside the gates with the idea of making service quicker and queues smaller. In order to purchase drinks, food or merchandise you needed to use a prepaid cashless card. These were bought on arrival with credit being exchanged for handing over hard cash. Once at a till the card was simply swiped with no pin / signing or change required. This system definitely sped up payment processing meaning the bar queue, although daunting looking, did move along quickly. However it does mean you have to find a way to use up all the cash on the card (unless you have the enthusiasm to go through the credit redemption instructions on the back…more wine anyone?)
Snake Eyes (Wilder Mind 2015)
Believe (Wilder Mind 2015)
Below My Feet (Babel 2012)
Wilder Mind (Wilder Mind 2015)
Awake My Soul (Sigh No More 2009)
I Will Wait (Babel 2012)
Lover of the Light (Babel 2012)
Tompkins Square Park (Wilder Mind 2015)
Ghosts That We Knew (Babel 2012)
The Cave (Sigh No More 2009)
Roll Away Your Stone (Sigh No More 2009)
Ditmas (Wilder Mind 2015)
Dust Bowl Dance (Sigh No More 2009)
Cold Arms (Wilder Mind 2015)
There Will Be Time
Little Lion Man (Sigh No More 2009)
The Wolf (Wilder Mind 2015)
Apologies for the iPhone quality pictures, ‘real’ cameras weren’t allowed inside (unless you were happy to pay the bribe!)
Have you seen Mumford and Sons? Or is there a band you have seen in different countries? Let me know in the comments 🙂