GRAEME THOM­SON GIG OF THE WEEK

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - MUSIC -

SSE Hy­dro, Glas­gow Tour­ing un­til Sat

On their last al­bum, Wilder Mind, Mum­ford & Sons un­der­went an ac­cel­er­ated in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, down­ing the tools of agrar­ian strug­gle to em­brace the in­stru­ments of mass pop pro­duc­tion – drum ma­chines, syn­the­sis­ers, elec­tric gui­tars – with a con­vert’s fer­vour.

New al­bum Delta con­tin­ues this rather self-con­scious plunge into progress, with penny-far­thing tunes shack­led to turbo-charged en­gines. If tech­nol­ogy is meant to of­fer free­dom from toil, you do won­der why Delta is such hard work. The ma­te­rial gath­ers a lit­tle more mo­men­tum on stage, though never quite enough.

Per­haps we should be thank­ful they’re here at all. It was an­nounced on the morn­ing of the Glas­gow con­cert that the band had can­celled four Bri­tish dates due to the ‘lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges’ of stag­ing this show. What sounds on pa­per like a coded ex­cuse makes sense up close. The stage is vast and re­mark­able. Some­thing re­sem­bling HMS Vic­tory is an­chored in the heart of the arena. A low­ered cen­tral deck con­sti­tutes the main per­form­ing area, flanked by two B-stages at bow and stern. When the light­ing rig de­scends dur­ing The Wild to form a roof, the band ap­pear to be ser­e­nad­ing us from The Ark. It’s an im­pres­sive space that at times this in­con­gru­ously up­graded folk troupe are un­sure how to fill. With no video screens and min­i­mal­ist light­ing, the spec­ta­cle doesn’t al­ways grip the way it might.

Per­form­ing in the round, Mar­cus Mum­ford works hard to sat­isfy ev­ery­one – hop­ping be­hind the drums, josh­ing about foot­ball scores, jump­ing on the mon­i­tors to ex­hort the crowd to dance, more in hope than ex­pec­ta­tion. He’s a lively cap­tain, and just as well. The rest of his crew are grad­u­ates from the Cold­play School of Anonymity.

On Tomp­kins Square Park and If I Say, the brood­ing, widescreen elec­tro-folk sound­scape fi­nally pulls into sharp fo­cus. The Wolf is an ap­pre­cia­bly pri­mal howl. Too of­ten, how­ever, lack­lus­tre new ma­te­rial is left in the dust by an­i­mated old glo­ries such as Lit­tle Lion Man, Ba­bel and I Will Wait, the whirling hayloft stomps that per­suaded ev­ery­one from Avicii to James Blunt to em­brace the banjo. Bet­ter still are the mo­ments when the group gather on the up­per deck to per­form acous­ti­cally. Ghosts That We Knew en­velops the arena in a gen­tle wash of dou­ble bass, fid­dle and fra­ter­nal har­mony. For en­cores of Timshel and Sis­ter, they clus­ter around a sin­gle mi­cro­phone, four up­scale Lon­don­ers tuned into the Old Time Appalachian Ra­dio Hour. For the most part, though, Mum­ford & Sons are 21st-cen­tury boys these days. You can’t help but won­der if they are play­ing against their strengths. mum­for­dand­sons.com

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