LIVE REVIEW: Mumford and Sons Live In Cape Town, South Africa

The opening show of a tour always has a lot hanging on it. Mumford and Sons, and Hilltop Live had a lot to prove with their first show on 29 January in Cape Town. They had to justify why tickets sold out in under two minutes and why numerous extra shows were added that also sold out. Furthermore, their tour was announced in the wake of a lot of criticism surrounding their new album Wilder Mind and the usual horde of complaints that surrounds any South African tour announcement. However, Mumford and Sons would have to wait till later in the evening to turn the Grand Parade into a proving ground. An afternoon of gridlocked traffic, technical difficulties and music had to run its course first.

One of the first things that impressed me about the show was the fact that Hilltop Live, in collaboration with Gentlemen of the Road, embraced the festival trend of using fabric bracelets upon entrance to the show as opposed to the horribly uncomfortable ones made out of plastic or paper. It is not something that is often used for normal one-day shows, but it is definitely a step in the right direction for improving the consumer experience with regards to live shows. There is a culture of collecting these bracelets in South Africa as seen by how many students cling to the various bracelets they have collected over the year. It induces a sense of pride in people and is often one of the reasons people attend festivals in the sense that they treat it like a musical game of Pokémon.

After acquiring my bracelet for the show – it was time to scope out the venue. To put it simply, the venue was beautiful. The stage backed up against the Castle and the City Hall towered above it along with the ever looming presence of Table Mountain. The only downside was the severe lack of shade. The gates may have opened at 5 pm and John Wizards may have taken to the stage at 6 pm, but this is summertime during Cape Town and the sun was only going to set at roughly 8:30 pm. Unfortunately, the position of the sun meant that it was beating down on Grand Parade until it crept behind Table Mountain. The lack of shade probably could not have been helped, but it is something that many promoters tend to forget – that some people do not cope well with the sun.

6 pm arrived and John Wizards took to the stage. The band have always been firm favourite sin South Africa and cemented their position with a downtempo and laid-back set that allowed people to wind down after having to endure horrendous traffic jams – the product of end-of-work traffic colliding with the stream of traffic that was transporting hordes of flower-crown wearing white girls and bearded hipsters. My girlfriend and I used John Wizard’s slow set to locate a few friends and grab a much-needed beer and stock-up on some water – a decision that I did not regret due to the lengthy lines that would later be associated with the bars.

These lines were problematic if your sole desire was to get yourself a bottle of water because water was not allowed in and there were no roving vendors dispensing water, but there were vendors selling cigarettes – which did not make much sense. If you’re anticipating long lines then you should, at least, ensure that there is a quick and easy way to acquire a bottle of water because dehydration is a much more important problem to solve than buying twenty beers for your mates. This is an issue that was solved in the following two shows, but it is not something that should have been a problem in the first place.

Despite this flaw, Hilltop Live had still put together a brilliant line-up and The Very Best soon took to the stage to excite the crowd with their multicultural music. Traditional African music was blended with Swedish electro and undercut with a combination of American rock guitar riffs and the eccentric frenzy of British indie rock. They served as the perfect opening band as they whipped up the crowd into a dancing frenzy only to have that frenzy punctuated by the anti-climax that was Beatenberg. It was an understandable anti-climax is it calmed the crowd down and allowed for them to save their energy for the magical moment for which they had been waiting.

It was 10 pm. Technical issues had pushed the bands back by half an hour and the crew had been working at a frenzied pace to get a wide array of instruments ready for Mumford and Sons. The sun had set. Cape Town’s various high rise buildings were lit up and then the opening riffs of “Snake Eyes” wafted over the air. It was at this moment that reality became hazy as I had to remind myself that this was happening and that they had opened with my favourite song. The guitar breakdown in “Snake Eyes” hit and the crowd absolutely lost themselves. It was at this point that Marcus Mumford and co turned the entire evening in a bittersweet concoction of mirth and melancholy. Dancing and singing accompanied much of the show, but there were many moments when melancholy descended upon their performance as the band wore their heart on their sleeves. Classic songs such as “I Will Wait”, “The Cave” and “Little Lion Man” induced mass singalongs, but it was songs like ‘White Blank Page” and “Believe” that saw visible signs of emotion creeping onto the faces of the various band members. Witnessing something like that from a band that has performed these songs so often is a sure sign of authenticity.

Mumford and Sons Live in Cape Town South Africa by Vetman Design & Photography - 2

Mumford and Sons Live in Cape Town South Africa by Vetman Design & Photography

Mumford and Sons proved so much on Friday. They proved that they were far more than just a band that likes banjos and Shakespeare. Their collaboration with Baaba Maal and their inclusion of all the bands that opened for them on the stage showed that they were not afraid to experiment on stage. The slick combination of their new album and first two albums allowed for a brilliant flow in sound as they moved from acoustic-based melodies to melodies rooted in electric guitars. Marcus Mumford throwing himself into the crowd during “Ditmas” showed a certain sense of courage, and they also managed to show that for a folk band – they are pretty aggressive.

Gauteng and Durban. Get ready.

 

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