The Mumford & Sons 2013 Glastonbury set seems to be the musical equivalent of Marmite: half of music-lovers are proclaiming the set’s greatness to anyone who will listen, while the other half remain sceptical and grouchy even days later. Just see the difference between the reviews from The Guardian and The Telegraph! I like the band (well, their first album, anyway) but seem to have landed in the second camp- I’ll explain why.
No one can deny that they haven’t been around very long. They’ve only released two albums, the first of which was in 2009, and although last year’s follow-up album Babel produced their only top 20 single ‘I Will Wait’, it also produced a lot of criticism that they were producing an awful lot of songs with a near-identical formula… (Equally- they’ve only had one top 20 single! I can’t believe ‘Little Lion Man’ and ‘The Cave’ didn’t make it) .
If you take this problem of lots of similar songs then it makes for a very samey set. This would be perfectly acceptable if they were given a normal and perfectly respectable slot- even a different night to headline- but closing Glastonbury? They have neither the legacy nor the musical range to live up to the reputation of that task. We don’t even know what their staying power is going to be like yet- obviously The Rolling Stones have kept our interest for 50 years and Arctic Monkeys have done amazingly and broken records in the last 6 years; can Mumford & Sons hang onto their success too? Only time will tell. One thing that’s for sure however is that if the band want to maintain stage presence and reduce the awkward silences between songs that seemed all too prevalent on Sunday.
The trouble is, I feel slightly bad for being so negative about them because they are obviously musically talented and the wealth of instruments between the one band was quite delightful to watch. However, this unfortunately doesn’t mean that they suit a broad festival crowd, or deserve this coveted slot. The very fact that possibly the most talked about point of their set is when they were joined onstage by Vampire Weekend, The Vaccines, The Staves and First Aid Kit to sing ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ instead of any of their own songs says a lot; they needed the extra spectacle of four added bands to give them anything big enough to finish with.
To conclude, nothing can sum it up better than some of these hilarious tweets from Sunday night. My personal favourite is “Hope [they] play that one that goes slow for a bit then dead fast with a banjo.” I think that sums it up. They’re as good or better than many bands out there at the moment, but don’t let them get too big for their folky boots.