As the boys of Mumford & Sons looked out over the crowd, the sight confronting them must have resembled something of an army dressed in pink and blue uniforms, as ponchos reached as far as the eye could see. Yet despite the rain drizzling miserably most of the afternoon, Mumford & Sons dispelled any and all of the concerns with a lights-out performance at the Domain.
Of course, Mumford & Sons weren’t the only act to grace the stage on Saturday afternoon – with a host of phenomenal acts treating the crowd to a day long event named the Gentlemen of the Road. In nearly all respects, the concert resembled a festival – it spanned from 1pm until almost midnight, with a quality line-up and a queue of food trucks and drink stations. Yet unlike your average festival like Field Day (which takes place at the same venue), the masses of teenagers and twenty-somethings were replaced by middle-aged fans with picnic blankets, many of whom were not regular festival-goers. One lady I talked to in the (extremely long) line for gozleme remarked that this was the first concert she had attended since 2004, and as a high school teacher was slightly bemused by the thought of seeing her students among the crowd.
While Meg Mac and Jake Bugg are always impeccable, The Vaccines were the stand-outs of the warm up acts. All of their songs are packed with devilishly addictive hooks, from their break-out hit If You Wanna to their new song (and easily their greatest) Handsome. The crowd seemed particularly energised by Wetsuit, probably hoping some would be dispensed with the chorus, considering the unrelenting rain. By the time Future Islands had served their brand of alternative rock, the crowd was thoroughly soaked. Yet if anything, it heightened the atmosphere, illuminating the fairy lights a littler brighter as people peered through their hoods expectantly.
Mumford & Sons took to the stage to deliver a set both energetic and intimate. They kicked off the set with a measured rendition of Snake Eyes, giving the Aussie crowd the first taste of their new album and transformed sound. Their new album divided fans, particularly the long-running lovers of their signature banjo sound. Sensing this, Little Lion Man came next. Hundreds of raised hands met the gently pouring rain, as the crowd roared along, in one of those euphoric moments that are so unique to live music.
The concert also fell on the day of the horrific Paris terrorist attacks, and just one day after similar attacks in Beirut. While the concert acted as a haven of sorts from the bad news filling TV screens around the globe, the boys paid tribute to the Paris attacks, dedicating Believe to the victims and laid a French flag over part of the stage.
The group was more than generous with their time, their career-spanning set totalling nearly two hours. Despite the quality of their new material, it was their familiar, older tunes that undoubtedly had the crowd more excited. I Will Wait and The Cave and Roll Away Your Stone were received with a rousing intensity, even after a long day. Throughout the show, there was a constant exchange of instruments – with banjos and a double bass being traded in for electric guitars. A logistical nightmare perhaps, but the sound was consistent – the softer acoustic songs were not drowned out by the electric numbers.
Dust Bowl Dance with its almost spoken lyrics ushered in the end of the set. Yet the boys were back before long with an encore featuring their recent single The Wolf which although was executed well, failed to reach the heights of their other singles. By this stage Marcus Mumford, the lead singer could barely open his eyes due to the amount of sweat and/or rain streaming down his face. For the final act, the crowd was crowded as The Vaccines, Jake Bugg and The Jungle Giants joined for a chilling Beatles rendition of With A Little Help From My Friends prompting many in the crowd to join arms with the friends and sway along. And with wet hair, mud encrusted shoes and beaming smiles filling the Domain, Mumford & Sons with their troupe of artists left the stage with deafening applause, continuing their ongoing love affair with Australia.