LIVE: Mumford & Sons @ Le Trianon

 

Mumford (in France)

Mumford (in France)

This post was written by a guest writer (and our old school mate) Ed Benson. He’s in Paris, saving the world. You can (and should!) follow him on his twitter account: The_Ed_Benson.

Theatrical setting, UK folk rock megastars and a small, intimate audience? We are definitely not in England anymore. We’re in the heart of Paris, anglophobic to the core, where Mumford & Sons with their waistcoats and broken French, should have been totally out of place. It could have been a car crash. How did it work so brilliantly? Je ne sais pas.

The gig took place at Le Trianon, a venue built in traditional French concert hall style. Balconies rose up and up, flanked by ornate decorations and plush red fabric: this combined with the mesh of lightbulbs dangling just above the standing area, which pulsated with red light, and the dark backdrop gave the place an almost post-apocalyptic feel. The hundreds of French people merely added to this atmosphere.

They came out all guns blazing, reeling off a string of their most energetic tunes at the start; we got the mournful yet tubthumping “Babel” and then the irresistible “Little Lion Man”. A quick aside, Parisians do not dance. They don’t get drunk enough to, and tend look on with scorn at anyone who does little more than tap to the beat (which slightly wrecked the Mystery Jets’ warm up gig). It says something then, that by “Whispers in the Dark” the crowd seemed to be genuinely loosening up and enjoying themselves. By the time Marcus Mumford paused and spoke to them in French he had the crowd eating out of his hand, roaring and bopping up and down to the bass which shook the floor.

But, this was not just all the hits. What was really impressive about the performance, was the way they brought out an extra depth to the music which I had never, to my shame, noticed before. Everyone knows that they write catchy and crowd pleasing tunes, but I had never noticed the extra edge that Ted Dwayne adds with his punchy bass notes, adding substance to “Roll Away Your Stone” or the wonderful close harmonies in songs like “Where Are You Now”.

The peak of the performance was actually when they asked the whole audience to go quiet, stepped to the front of the stage as a quartet and proceeded to sing “Timshel” together around the guitar. It harked back to the roots of folk, stripped back, hushed and around the fire to an enraptured audience; sure some idiots shouted, that’s democracy, but most were captured by the beauty of the music, no bombast, just the pure sound of acoustic guitar and four people singing.

We quickly got back on to pulsing beats and stomping feet, but even the encore, a rousing rendition of “I Will Wait”, could not match the moments when they quietened down and started to explore deeper questions of faith which permeate through their music. It is this that makes them more than Coldplay with banjos; in an time where it is unfashionable “to do God” it is impressive that they are making music which is both popular and thoughtful, performed with real passion.

Leaving Le Trianon after this barnstorming performance, I thought to myself “is this really alternative enough to review”. Well, the concert was in Paris, in a venue you’ll never have heard of which looked a bit like the set of “Anna Karenina”, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter. Because Mumford & Sons were really, really good; I entered as a sceptic and came out as a fan, and if you don’t like that then casse-toi.

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