Mumford & Sons at 3Arena Dublin review: Big anthems, but empty sentiments
Marcus Mumford is keen to remind Dublin that this is a "home from home" concert for his raggle-taggle band, and the crowd's euphoric response suggests they adore what they hear. It's all one big anthem after the next and one can sense the group straining to make their songs connect. But from the off, the joins can be discerned and the emptiness at the heart of Mumford & Sons' music is so glaringly apparent that it's impossible to ignore.
Time and again the English band's songs appear to have been devised simply to fit big arenas like this, but strip a crowd favourite like 'I Will Wait' back to its bare bones and its trite observations and pedestrian construction is impossible to ignore. It's the second number tonight on a set-list that splices in the folk-rock tunes of their first two albums with the Springsteen-baiting rock of their latest.
There is much to admire when taking elements in isolation - such as the evocative fiddle-playing - but as a whole, songs like 'Below My Feet' and 'Thistle & Weeds' are unsatisfying, despite the machinations of up to eight people on stage.
Far better is the spirited 'Tompkins Square Park' from latest album Wilder Mind. The folk affectations are eschewed in favour of full-on, driving rock that's delivered with panache.
Later, there's a welcome change of pace when the touring players depart and Mumford and his three 'sons' come together at the front for a gentle and lovely acoustic version of 'The Cave' although its impact is lessoned somewhat when the singer has to implore the audience to be quiet with the bribe that the next song will be "f***ing loud". And he's as good as his word: 'Roll Away Your Stone' is dumbly loud and melodramatic - like so much of the fare tonight.
Breakthrough song 'Little Lion Man' - now a staple for buskers everywhere - is rapturously welcomed and the "I f***ed it up this time" line is roared back with all the enthusiasm of school kids getting to say a swear word in an inappropriate setting.
For anyone unconverted to the Mumford cause, it's a dispiriting evening.