Updated: Oct 17, 2018
Let’s be honest: we’ve actually been waiting for Mumford & Sons to tour South Africa since the release of their Sigh No More debut album in 2009. “I Will Wait” is a promise that SA fans evidently swore by as this dream became reality seven years later. Tickets selling out in under two minutes proved that their visit was long overdue, but in hindsight unquestionably worth the wait.
Before the British rock band took to the stage, a highly unlikely, but finely selected collection of opening acts graced the stage. The Brothers Move On impressed with their authentic African sound and abundant inspirational nation-building messages. Mister President can definitely learn a lesson or two from these guys – using their platform to advocate hope, peace and unity. Capetonian band, John Wizards, catapulted the evening into the next gear with their smooth pastiche of reggae and electro styles. It’s no wonder that these guys have succeeded to grab the attention of major festivals abroad, including Glastonbury and Pukkelpop.
The Very Best brought a unique blend of African and European sounds to the crowd, while Beatenberg pulled out all the stops to prove yet again that they deserve to be on such a big stage. Although this three-piece has had the rare opportunity to open for other international acts touring SA, such as Thirty Seconds to Mars and The Tallest Man on Earth, it made sense that they were chosen again. Beatenberg opened for Mumford & Sons in mid 2015 in the UK, and it seems like they made such a big impression on the Brits, that including them on the band’s SA tour, was a logical step. There’s no doubt that the guys have grown in leaps and bounds since their first shot to stardom and they deserve every accolade that comes their way. The cherry on the cake of their performance, was when Marcus Mumford casually waltzed on stage to join Beatenberg – it took a while for the raging crowd to actually realize who the handsome dark-haired man was.
Just after 21:00 the first sounds of “Snake Eyes” engulfed the picturesque Monument Amphitheatre. The moment was big and the band’s presence was even bigger. The evening was shaken into frenzy and all around fans’ glistening eyes watched the stage intently to take in every movement and sound of the Mumford & Sons four-piece. What followed can best be described as a surreal series of moments that has now been carved into the hearts of the more than 25 000 attendees.
Song after song the band managed to amalgamate emotions of joy and melancholy seemingly effortlessly. Songs like “The Cave” and “Little Lion Man” prompted the masses to sing-along and dance-along, while “White Blank Page” and “Ghosts That We Knew” led to silent tears of gleeful nostalgia. Watching the band wear their hearts on their sleeves and performing with such heart-wrenching emotion, it’s difficult to believe that Marcus and his fellow three band members are all only in their late 20’s/early 30’s. Their music and lyrics surpasses their actual years, with a mature sense of understanding and empathy.
Marcus is the perfect front man: a leader, but also a giver. Just as much as he prompted a great deal of the action on stage and pulled off crazy stunts like walking into the audience whilst rarely missing a word of “Ditmas”, he also gave way for his other three band members to stand out. Ben Lovett (the actual founding member of the band), Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane showed off their versatility as musicians by comfortably shifting to different instruments during the band’s set. Marcus also amazed the crowd by jumping in behind the drum kit and displaying his mad drumming skills, while (you guessed it) still delivering an almost flawless vocal performance.
A visual highlight was seeing thousands of lights (cellphones and lighters) in the air during their performance of their smash hit, “Believe”. Their collaboration with Senegalese superstar, Baaba Maal, showcased that they are brave enough to experiment with other musical cultures. They even included all the bands that opened for them, with the mass collaboration effort, “There Will Be Time”, recorded in Johannesburg.
The superb flow of old and new songs allowed fans to appreciate how naturally they’ve progressed as a band: from banjo-driven folk to electric guitars dominating melodious tunes. The last notes of “The Wolf” fused with the sound of rain and thunder, prompting the euphoric experience to come to an end. Thank you Hilltop Live and Gentlemen of the Road for making this experience possible. And thank you Mumford & Sons for giving it your all and singing every song as if it was the first time ever. South Africa salutes you and hopes to see you back soon.
Photos by Stanley June