As people from all age groups and walks of life began swarming into the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on the 15th January, singer-songwriter Gretta Ray stepped on stage with nothing more than her guitar for her very first arena performance. From the get-go, she was nervous, humble and very grateful. While announcing one of her biggest hits Radio Silence, she got 2 loud ‘WOO!’s from eager audience members, to which she giggled, her head down. “Thank you so much. That’s not something I was expecting.” To give you an indication as to how good the song – and her voice – was, by the end of the very same song, you can bet that a lot more than just two people erupted in applause.
Up next was Michael Kiwanuka, and he didn’t spare a single moment here. After the insanely catchy One More Night followed by a few more standouts, he prepared us for some pure soul music with his hit Black Man In A White World, reminding all of us, if we ever needed reminding, that soul music is still alive and it is very, very well.
After the two fantastic warm-ups, the lights went out and as to be expected, the 13,500-strong went crazy. The rousing applause led into 42, the first of 6 new songs from their most recently released record, Delta. It was obvious from the first note that Mumford & Sons don’t do things in halves, as five other musicians joined the four of them on stage throughout the whole set to round out their full-fledged, stadium-folk-turned-indie-rock sound to perfection. And if that doesn’t prove the point, within the first song while Ben Lovett was handling rhythm on the keyboard, Winston Marshall handling the electric guitar and Ted Dwane grooving on bass, leading man Marcus Mumford not only sung, but also pounded on his very own separate set of drums that were placed on the centre walkway.
By the time Lover Of The Light, the fourth song in their set began, you wouldn’t have even noticed if you weren’t looking close enough that Mumford was again seated at the drum kit, going crazy and still singing impeccably, his voice not wavering or reacting once. Come to the chorus of Believe, the pyrotechnics had started and from this point on, the crowd was officially entranced and immersed – stomping, mass-clapping and singing along. After all, the dynamic had completely changed. This wasn’t intended to be a nice, sway-along folk-rock concert featuring a few heavier songs from the latter half of their audio resume – This was intended to be a full-blown spectacle.
In between songs, a quip about the Aussie cricket team drew laughter and applause as Mumford joked about the sandpaper debacle by stating that they weren’t much better – they were miming their songs all night. On that side note, let me just say that with the quality of his voice whilst he was maniacally drumming, I half believed him.
Moving onto the edge of the walkway, Ghosts That We Knew cast the spotlight almost solely on vocals and violin, quietly bringing the collective heart rate down and allowing the lighters and the iPhone cameras to sway and shine, in what always is a spectacle of man-made feel-good fireflies. Once our feels were officially at peak, Mumford took the opportunity to gently speak about the early touring days of Mumford & Sons, and how their first Aussie appearance was at Laneway, almost ten years to the day. “You guys have always been so good to us. We’ll always be back as long as you’ll have us back.”
Roll Away Your Stone, an obvious fan-favourite from Sigh No More, set the place crazy and as if to further amp everyone up, Mumford proceeded to do something I’ve personally never seen any musician do in a stadium; he walked through the crowd right up to the top of the stands at the other side of the arena, followed by all the way back, much to the delight of the hundreds who got up close and personal with the lead singer. New hit Picture You slowed it right down again for us. The mood turned somewhat ominous as spotlights of purple and orange gently glided across the sea of the standing, all while a heartbeat-esque bass pedal softly pounded under a spoken word piece. This is Mumford & Sons we’re talking about, so obviously, all of this abruptly became a full-on multi-instrumental frenzy to climax a song that ended up including everything from Marcus again on drums to a thirty-second-flurry of wild fireworks, before abrupt and complete darkness and silence.
But somehow, less ended up being more. They began the close to half-an-hour, six-song encore with four of them standing around a single microphone. Timshel and Cold Arms, the two songs they played in said position, revealed the talents and emotion of the whole unit without any bells and whistles, without any elaborate instrumental backing and without any assistance from the audience. We were seeing them at their most vulnerable as a band, and it was in my opinion, the night’s clear highlight.
For as quiet as those two songs had the audience, you should have heard the applause ten minutes later when they flipped that completely on its head and began strumming I Will Wait. It was the obvious hit and it completely showed. They finished their set with the new album’s Indie Rock crowd pleaser Delta (featuring the classic confetti cannon on climax) and proceeded to receive the biggest applause from any audience that I’ve heard at any concert. To put that into perspective, I’ve seen Def Leppard, Muse, Walk The Moon, Green Day and The Hives, to name only a few. And I thought The Hives’ faithful were loud! It seems the crowd was rightfully giving the band a clear answer to Mumford’s earlier statement… We’ll always have them back in Brisbane.
Review Contributed by Sam Sciacca