Mumford & Sons Gentlemen of the Road Summer Stampede was a single day event and luckily the weather followed the recent trend of uninterrupted sunshine, which kept the temperature for the day well above 25 degrees Celsius.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park played host and did a great job at doing so. The organisers provided seating in the form of a carpet of fake grass which smothered the majority of the main arena. The thought did not go unnoticed but lazy lawn doesn’t seem to cope well with intense and prolonged sunshine and by 3pm some people found themselves welded to the ground.
Bear’s Den kicked off the music. They gave a strong performance which suited the occasion and left the 65,000 Mumfordians (a name commonly used to describe Mumford & Sons fans; they can typically be seen drinking ale, wearing leather waistcoats and slapping their knees) hankering for more. Haim followed and were fantastic. The, “two sisters and their friend,” were joined by, “a man,” on drums. The set was full of uplifting songs like ‘Forever’ which injected rhythmic energy into an already lively crowd. Their ability to effortlessly make a one way conversation with tens of thousands of people funny and engrossing definitely added to their punchy performance.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were third up. The heavily bearded 10-member troupe, headed up by Jade Castrinos (who is not bearded) and Alex Ebert, stormed the middle section. Their catchy melodies, which are joyful and easy on the ear, grabbed my attention and held it throughout the performance.
Ben Howard, who followed Eddie and the gang, was always going to be a crowd pleaser. His songs invite people to sing-a-long and audiences warm to his personable demeanour. The Devonian played as the sky turned Um Bongo orange, creating an atmosphere synonymous with summer festivals.
Vampire Weekend were the penultimate band. The recent release of a new album, ‘Modern Vampires of the City,’ meant they had a new repertoire of content to dip into. They mixed up old songs with new and crafted a well-planned set that was entertaining and full of popular favourites.
As the sun perched upon the roofs of the buildings surrounding the main arena, Mumford and Sons took to the stage. Fresh from Glastonbury, all four were evidently up for a second round of folk-rocking-merriment. They were as expected; flawless and as energetic as four men stood in a line can be. Their characteristic religiously-focussed loved-up folk-rock has been incredibly popular in both the UK and America alike and after seeing them live it is easy to understand why. The rhythmic beats and jolly tunes about waiting kept even the most uncoordinated members of the audience jumping and smiling inanely.
Mr Mumford and his Sons have risen to the dizzying heights of a headline spot at a major arena relatively quickly. I am not suggesting that is a bad thing, I believe talent deserves recognition, but it did leave them with only two albums worth of songs to choose from. On more than one occasion I found myself wondering if they were accidentally repeating themselves. It also doesn’t help that to the untrained ear each song sounds alarmingly similar; the slow to fast banjo riffs overwhelm everything.
The stage design was hackneyed and vapid. It consisted of 10 lights and four 50 foot projections of their straining faces. After two hours of staring at Mr Mumford’s red face, he really starts to look like a younger version of an old Stephen Fry. This may have entertained some but I now appreciate how exciting a sweeping shot of a large body of people can be. The only explanation has to be that they don’t feel Mumfordians are attractive enough to display on a large screen, thanks guys.
They finished their set with a cheerful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain.’ For this they were joined on stage by all the other acts from the day. This was a great way to finish and I was delighted to see Edward Sharpe and co. again.
One thing is for sure, Mumford & Sons know how to arrange an entertaining day long festival. Everyone I spoke to was having a wonderfully happy time but this could have been because a day in the sun had boosted their serotonin levels.