Within the first 15 minutes of taking the stage in the center of State Farm Arena, Mumford & Sons had already played three of their most recognized songs.
Their simple statement of tenderness – current hit “Guiding Light” - along with “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave” roared through the venue and launched fans into a dancing frenzy. The opening wallop also set the pace for the slick, brisk concert, where songs were separated by the engaging chit-chat of frontman Marcus Mumford.
The British quartet’s “Delta” tour – named for their fourth album, which arrived in November and sprinted to No. 1 – already roamed Europe, Australia and some of the East Coast before it returned to the U.S. earlier this month. By now, it’s an efficient production, one augmented with a trio of musicians to amplify the band’s songs, which have evolved over the years from pub stompers to fuller, statelier anthems.
Given the setup of the stage, Mumford & Sons – which includes other frontliners Ben Lovett on piano and keyboards, Winston Marshall on banjo and searing electric guitar and Ted Dwane on standup and traditional bass – stayed active as they constantly shifted location to present the sold-out crowd with a respectable view from all angles.
The open stage wasn’t a complicated production, but one that allowed fans to see the scrunched eyes of Mumford when he reached for a big note and the furrowed brow of Marshall as he picked at his strings.
“Lover of the Light,” from 2012’s Grammy-winning “Babel” album, was followed by “Tompkins Square Park,” which began with cool, blue beams streamed down in rows on the stage and exploded in a fury of flashing white lights.
The frequently raised houselights boosted a feeling of immersion between the band and the audience, but Mumford also provided plenty of entertainment with his fan engagement.
The singer-guitarist talked about playing Criminal Records earlier in the day, visiting the Georgia Aquarium (“Some of the biggest ******* fish I’ve ever seen in my life!”) and heaped praise on Atlanta, which he called, “pretty much the new musical capital of the world.”
He asked for phone lights during “Believe” and, with Marshall and Dwane, crowded around Lovett for “Below My Feet,” a quiet foot-stomper that escalated into a potent fist-pumper, the formula that propels much of the band’s catalog.
It’s a familiar recipe – evidenced prominently by “I Will Wait,” played later in the concert - but one that has earned Mumford & Sons more than a dozen hits, shelves of awards in England and America and a reputation as some of the good guys.
Opening the show was Atlanta native Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall), who has handled early duties for several dates on the Mumford & Sons tour.
Performing on a dark stage tinted with a pink hue, Marshall and her three-piece band unveiled her ethereal songs with a punch.
She apologized several times for being sick – a few coughs echoed between songs – but Marshall managed to find the sweet spot of her range to bounce from the electronic kick of “Shattered” to the haunting harmonies of “He Was a Friend of Mine.”
Under a fringe of dark bangs, Marshall performed the title track of her 10th studio album, “Wanderer,” which arrived in October, before Marcus Mumford hopped onstage with his guitar to participate on a trio of songs.
There is a mesmerizing quality to Marshall’s music - a stew of country, blues and folk-rock - and while her expressed shyness means her performances remain a bit untouchable (hence the shadowy stage and her reluctance to allow photographers), Marshall’s warmth still seeps through.
She may have left Atlanta many years – and many bands – ago, but it was apparent that she was moved by her surroundings.
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