Mumford & Sons – Lanxess Arena, Köln; May 15th, 2019
Two nights ago in Cologne I saw my second ever Mumford & Sons concert. It was fun, the music was very enjoyable. They put on a good show as well and despite the stage being at the center of the arena,I don’t think anyone can complain about only seeing their backs. It also felt a bit like watching TV and I learned two things: 1. Unless I am a fan of the band I am seeing, as long as there is a general admission standing section seats will not do it for me. 2. I should have seen them when they were smaller and I would have probably loved it. As it was I had a nice evening and sometimes that has to be enough.
I discovered Mumford & Sons in 2012 with the arrival of their second album ‘Babel’. Mind you, I did not hear them on the radio or anything, they were recommended to me by a friend and I had no idea they were more than a band known by a few insiders. When a tour rolled around I wasn’t worried about getting tickets. Sure, the size of the venue they played in my area should have tipped me of to them being bigger than I assumed, but I did not even think about it. My local ticket seller didn’t have tickets yet and when the told me they’d get them the next day I still wasn’t worried about not getting one otherwise I would have bought online. Well, that turned out to be a big fail, because by the time the first day of sales was over all the tickets were gone. WHAAAAAA??? They came back again a year or two later, but charged twice as much for the tickets and I wasn’t willing to pay that. I saw them eventually and learned what a great live band they are, so when they announced their ‘Delta’ Tour I was game and bought a ticket right away this time.
The Arena in Cologne is known for shitty sound in the upper level seats so I made sure to get a lower lever one and hope for the best. For years I’d been avoiding anything but GA tickets at that venue, but it has made me miss a few potentially great concerts so I decided to give it a try this time. The good thing about seats was not having to leave work early. Arrived shortly after six, got in quickly, found my seat and had a lot of time to watch the arena filling up and read a few pages on my phone before the lights went down.
When support act Gangs of Youth started I immediately discovered that the “shitty sound” claim was indeed true. I mostly heard the drums. When the singer was talking it was OK, because there weren’t any instruments to drown out his voice, but as soon as the drums kicked in that was it. I think they were actually pretty good and I would like to believe I’d have liked them if only I could have heard the words and the music properly. As it was I thought they were OK, but soon found myself bored, because they did not manage to draw me in. Watching the people who stood in front of the stage rocking along to their music gave me an idea of what could have been though. The band made good use of the fact that their audience was on two sides of the stage and made sure to play to both of them. Somewhere in the set there was a song that was mostly piano based. I liked that one. At one point the singer went of off the stage and into the audience, which is always a cool thing to do and he even sat down in one of the seats. Watching them was actually quite fun, especially when the singer lay down on one of the speakers or showed us his dance moves. For one song they asked us to switch on the lights on our phones, but not everyone followed. I felt sorry for Gang of my Youth, because this was surely not their fault, but they did not really do much for me and I only hope things would improve for the main act.
First there was some more waiting though and watching as the stage setup was changed. Finally the last empty seats near me filled up with people arriving late. It wasn’t completely sold out, but pretty much. I wondered what the people all the way up in the nosebleeds felt like. Shortly after 9 pm the lights went out again and the band we had all been waiting for walked out.
Luckily the sound was much better now. It still wasn’t great, but I could hear all the instruments now. 🙂 Soon it occurred to me that I should have spent some time listening to their albums before going to their show. Now having done that in ages I didn’t remember or recognize any of the songs. A few seemed vaguely familiar to me, but certainly not on a level where I could have sung along. The people around me took care of that though. 😀 They started with a song from their current album ‘Delta’ which I don’t own yet, but I should have known the second song for sure. I didn’t matter all that much, it was fun anyway. With the second song Marcus told us that we could get up any time and many people did so right away, some never sitting down again for the rest of the night.
The view was great from my seat as I could see everyone on the stage and the audience in front. If I wanted a closer look I only needed to raise my head to the screen to my right, but mostly I kept my eyes on the stage and soaked in the atmosphere. They had an interesting light rig above stage that allowed for movement of the spotlights in every direction and created some beautiful effects. I briefly thought of Springsteen’s light crew that sat up high above the stage and controlled the spots from there. How things have changed. Watching the band move across stage was fun. They played to both sides equally and the audience on either side rocked not matter if the band was looking at them or not. People were jumping, dancing and having a great time. There was a lot going on and despite my good vantage point from above I’m sure I missed a few things, especially from Ben and Winston who were on the opposite side of the stage. I saw Ted lift the bass high over his head though (and that was the stand-up bass, mind you) and all the times Marcus stepped up on the edge of the stage and leaned out towards the audience. Later on during the show, he walked down, high-fiving people at the front as he walked past, went straight into the crowd and even climbed up on and over the barrier to where the seats were. That was pretty cool. 🙂
All the while I alternated between being a somewhat detached observer and getting into it, moving along with the music. Both was enjoyable, yet every time I saw the audience go wild in front of the stage I wish I was among them. here is nothing like being part of the crowd – no matter what concert. When we were asked to take out our phone lights, it was really beautiful though, to be able to see all of the arena turn into a sea of lights. In-between there was even the occasional lighter. What a nice old school gesture! It was ted’s birthday so one song was dedicated to him and at one point towards the end we were all asked to snap our fingers and most did for most of the song. 🙂 THat was pretty cool.
The encores started with the band gathering around one microphone, playing and singing softly. They did not really ask us to be quiet, but it was implied and I wish everyone in the seats had sat down then. The people in front of me chose to remain standing through the first song and so I had todo the same or I would not have been able to see and felt sorry for the people behind me. There is great power in acoustic music and this was one of the best parts of the show. People were still singing along, but quietly – nice! The band brought out Gang of Your for one song, before sending hem off again. I think it might have been ‘Awake my Soul’ where Marcus called out “If you know it, sing it!” and the audience did. Before ‘I will wait’ he congratulated Cologne for making it back into 1. Bundesliga in football and joked that the next song was going to be about football.
The left us with a beautiful rendition of ‘Delta’ which I saw from the back just before I rushed out to the train station. It was a good concert overall and I do not regret going, but I felt that something was missing. I am convinced that had I seen them back in 2013 I would have enjoyed the hell out of it and come back for more ever time they toured, but somehow they do not appeal to me the same way they did seven years ago. The ship of becoming as fan has sailed. That being said I still think of them as a good live band and that is no small feat.
Little Lion Man
Lover of the Light
Tompkins Square Park
Wild Heart (acoustic)
Only Love (acoustic)
Blood (The Middle East cover) (with Gang of Youths)
Awake My Soul
I Will Wait