The Mumford moment overtook TD Garden on Tuesday.
Mumford & Sons launched its North American tour with a sold-out Garden show, which leads to a few more sold-out arenas and then to the Grammy Awards, where the English band’s “Babel” is nominated for Album of the Year and has songs contesting in Americana song and rock song of the year.
In other words, it’s pretty good being a banjo-plucking, acoustic-guitar-strumming, bass-drum-pounding, upright-bass-thumping Brit band these days. How Mumford & Sons vaulted from the acoustic pack of Avetts and Fleet Foxes to arena stardom wasn’t so difficult to figure out. Sure, the band has folk instruments, but members wield them with rock ’n’ roll bravado and calculated precision. Mumford & Sons are more indebted to U2 than to any folk-rock forbears.
It was clear from the opening song, “Babel,” through to the encore of “The Cave” that spectacle suits Mumford & Sons’ material. Front man Marcus Mumford sings with such earnest urgency that you’d call his performance theatrical if it had contrast or variation. Instead, Mumford steamrolled through the tunes, with the rest of the band following his lead and relentlessly ratcheting each song to a boil.
Much of the Mumford set turned on formula, galloping rhythms and impassioned optimism being the main ingredients. The contrast between them and openers the Felice Brothers, who likewise draw from roots and folk traditions, was stark. Where every Mumford song could find a silver lining, Felice tunes couldn’t hide the ache. While the band played “Reminder” and “Sister” on a small B-stage set up on the arena floor, Mumford & Sons seemed more at home on the brightly lit main stage working up frenzies with “Little Lion Man” and “Roll Away Your Stone.”
Ben Howard also played an opening set, offering hushed pastoral folk that was effective at a fraction of the Mumford volume.