Mumford & Sons wows Camden

Posted: February 19, 2013

With a shiny new Grammy Award under their belts, English folk-rock juggernaut Mumford & Sons stormed the Camden Waterfront on Saturday for the first of two sold-out nights at the Susquehanna Bank Center.

The band emerged from behind a curtain adorned with its top-hatted Gentlemen of the Road logo to kick off the set with "Babel," the title track of the newly minted best album of 2012.

In the midst of a whirlwind couple of weeks, the band members - Marcus Mumford on guitar, mandolin, and kick drum, Winston Marshall on banjo and guitar, Ben Lovett on keys and accordion, and Ted Dwayne on electric and standup bass - lived up to their reputation as stellar live performers, playing most of the set as a harmonizing four-man front before a largely unmanned drum set. Save for a few songs on which Mumford (who began his career as Laura Marling's skinsman) manned the kit, the band's percussive thrust came from that lone kick drum at his feet.

While the instrument distinguishes the band's sound - a Celtic twist on anthemic folk rock - from most of what's considered popular, it can also render the band's songs indistinct from each other, with one churning, stomping ditty about being lost or found, blameless or culpable, blurring into the next.

But even at its most stylistically murky, Mumford & Sons is about a (quite timely) feeling: Things seem bleak, but they'll probably get better if you just hang in there a little bit longer, brother.

On the strength of crowd-pleasers like "Little Lion Man," "Winter Winds" (complete with three-man horn and string sections), "Whispers in the Dark," and the electrifying hit, "I Will Wait," the band members - playing beneath screens projecting real-time video of themselves looking plaintive and fraught - had the crowd singing and clapping along for much of the set.

The night's high point was also its conclusion. Mumford summoned opening acts Haim and Ben Howard to the stage. Upon noting that the venue was, indeed, in New Jersey, the 17 assembled musicians launched into a sprawling cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" - a decisive and poignant exclamation point.

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