BERKELEY — “How many of you are students?”
Marcus Mumford surveyed the packed crowd at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre Thursday night, the second of three consecutive sell-outs for London folk-rockers Mumford & Sons.
“How many of you are parents? How many of you smoke weed,” the disheveled vocalist-guitarist-foot stomper continued.
“I think I just hit all our demographic.”
While the quartet may be losing much of its hipster following – some have begun referring to Mumford and Co. as the Nickelback of folk – a new wave of older fans have carried the band to even bigger heights. Winning the Grammy Award for best album this year didn’t hurt ticket sales.
Thursday at the Greek, Mumford displayed why they are so popular to many, and hated by some.
The quartet opened with “Lovers’ Eyes,” a soft mood setter off second album Babel. Halfway through, Mumford, banjo player, Winston Marshall keyboardist Ben Lovett and bassist Ted Dwane were joined by six back-up musicians, including additional strings and horns. The six would come and go, in various combinations, throughout the rest of the show.
A dozen or so foot-stomping, euphoric numbers followed; a strong mix from Babel and debut album Sigh No More – “Roll Away Your Stone,” “Winter Winds,” “Holland Road,” “Timshel,” and, of course, “Little Lion Man,” which was placed in the middle of the set and drew the biggest crowd approval to that point.
New album track “I Will Wait” and set closer “The Cave” provided the two other most explosive moments of the show, while the encore featured a soft cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.”
Mumford took the drum set at the back of the stage for “Lover of the Light,” and “Dustbowl Dance, ” which allowed the band to alternate from the deadening 4/4 beat on the majority of the other songs, or, at least, add some drum fills.
And that is the band’s Achilles heel at this point in its young career. Since many of their songs sound the same (it’s due to the simplistic kick drum beat more than anything else), the lyrics begin to blend into the background. One fix would be to simply add a full-time drummer that could add fills, allowing Mumford to get more creative on the guitar.