ACL Review: Mumford & Sons

Appropriate end to two flawless ACL weekends

For those complaining about the encroaching influence of hip-hop, EDM, and pop superstars over the past few years of ACL Fest, Mumford & Sons’ irrepressible headlining set Sunday night should’ve rang as reassurance. Over two hours and 21 songs, the UK sextet inspired the entire field before the Samsung stage to sing along, full-throated and with abandon.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

While the group’s embraced its trajectory toward grander rock, they’ve also maintained their folkier roots. The opening run of “Snake Eyes,” “Little Lion Man,” and “Holland Road” proved that upright bass, banjo, and acoustic guitar remain anthemic in the right hands.

Marcus Mumford commanded the stage and the crowd with indefatigable energy. The frontman crooned solo to open “White Blank Page” before the band folded in full force, and took to the drum kit for the swell of “Lover of the Light.” “Tompkins Square Park” roared into the dramatic pull of “Believe,” with Mumford encouraging fans to hold up their phones to light the entire side of the park.

Throughout, the band beamed with a genuine enthusiasm, Mumford declaring, “This might be my favorite festival in the world,” and asking the crowd, “Who just saw Willie Nelson play? We can all die happy now!” He acknowledged the honor of sharing the bill with Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar, but the band made their case for closing festival headliners with tightly controlled tension and release between the tender “Ghosts That We Knew,” raging lift of “The Cave,” and stomp & roll of “Below My Feet” into new live anthem “Forever.”

Mumford ran down the middle gangway through the crowd belting “Ditmas” as the penultimate song of the main set, even diving into the crowd and having his shirt ripped apart. The encore rose behind the newer “Hot Gates,” but “I Will Wait” brought the greatest burst of appreciation from the crowd. Closing, the band hit a perfect capstone to the joyous, emotionally ripped set.

Bringing Haim and Gregory Porter onstage, they unloaded a wailing version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” as fans sang along, perhaps the most appropriate end to two flawless ACL weekends.

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Mumford & Sons, ACL Fest 2016, Marcus Mumford, Haim, Gregory Porter

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