By the time night two of Mumford and Sons’ “secret” shows at the Roxy in West Hollywood rolled around Tuesday, any lingering mystery about their existence was pretty well gone.
Surprisingly, however, in an age when every moment of musicians’ lives — public and private — seems to show up on YouTube and Twitter, so far there’s no record of the hour-long shows circulating yet.
The band required concertgoers to leave cellphones and cameras in their cars or check them at the club’s door so they could focus on the music they would be hearing, rather than documenting it for social-media sharing.
“It’s the first time in our career that we will be releasing an album with songs fans aren’t already familiar with,” Marcus Mumford told The Times on Monday in an interview for an upcoming profile that will run closer to the release of “Wilder Mind” album on May 4.
Consequently, Mumford, guitarist-singer Winston Marshall, keyboardist-singer Ben Lovett and bassist-singer Ted Dwane say they’re hoping to keep the music under wraps for a bit longer.
The Roxy shows were among a handful of small-scale shows the band is giving ahead of its forthcoming tour, which includes a June 13 performance at the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee and a return to California for San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival on Aug. 7.
“How you doing Los Angeleez?” Mumford asked with a broad smile at the show’s outset. “Nice to see you. It’s been a while. What have you been doing?”
Then the group dived into sharing what it has been up to of late. As indicated by the album’s first single, “Believe,” Mumford and Sons have largely left behind the heavily acoustic, Americana-focused sound of the quartet’s first two albums, now delving into synthesizers, drum loops, electric guitars and other plugged-in devices that put them closer to the sonic world of Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Elbow and their UK kin.
But on first listen, Mumford & Sons' shift doesn’t sound like a radical departure as much as a way to expand their emotional and musical palette. They’re still singing of those things that pass between people in relationships, and how they go about sustaining those relationships, or managing the aftermath when they fail.
Doubt — in a partner, in oneself — figures into many of the new album’s songs, which are framed in music that can at times sound ethereal before giving way to explosive choruses. Lead singer Mumford often seems to be trying to exorcise some demon, or channel some quality that is just beyond his grasp.
Even when the band was armed with more subtle sound of mandolin, banjo, accordion and upright bass, Mumford and Sons attacked their instruments with a punk-inspired abandon, and the impact of the new approach is only that much more potent.
Calendar will have more coverage of the band and its new album in coming weeks.
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