While Mumford & Sons haven’t released a full album for almost a year and a half, that didn’t stop the 2016 Life Is Beautiful headliners from drawing a massive crowd to the Downtown stage to close out the first night of the festival.
The material might not be new—tracks off the outfit’s recent Johannesburg EP didn’t make the set list—but regardless of release date, Mumford’s sound is perfectly suited for a setting such as Life Is Beautiful. The folk rockers’ driving melodies and catchy choruses produce anthems of epic proportion, which easily fill arenas (and entire city blocks, in the case of Life Is Beautiful) and can motivate thousands to share a collective musical experience. Think: massive sing-along dance party.
And that’s exactly what happened at the lot off Sixth and Stewart, where Marcus Mumford and crew fed the ears of hungry festivalgoers for nearly two hours. The set list was evenly divided between the band’s three albums (2015’s Wilder Mind, 2012’s Babel and 2009’s Sigh No More), mostly highlighting their hits that have topped the charts. “Little Lion Man,” “I Will Wait,” and “The Wolf” all made the cut.
“This is a very cool festival, and we’re happy we’re here,” Mumford said between performances. “Britney Spears is down the road, but this is even better.”
And it was. Mumford & Sons has been together for almost a decade, and that longevity translates into one kickass live show. The band has an obvious synergy—something that only comes from such permanence—and really gelled on dynamic tracks like “The Cave” and “I Will Wait.” Marcus Mumford’s distinctive voice sounded great throughout, especially on more exposed songs such as “Lover Of the Light.” Every song performed sounded better than the album cut, as the band harmonizes live just as well as it shreds on the strings.
In the end, the folk rockers’ propelling performance provided the perfect cap to a great day of music, closing with crowd favorites “I Will Wait” and “The Wolf.” Here’s hoping next time Mumford and his band mates make it to town they have even more anthemic, arena-ready hits to crush. ★★★✩✩
Photos by Jesse J Sutherland