Last Night: Mumford & Sons and Cadillac Sky at the House of Blues

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Mumford & Sons
November 4, 2010
House of Blues

Better Than: Going to a show at House of Blues when the Mavericks or Stars are in town.

The frenzy that currently envelopes English folk-rockers Mumford & Sons is as clear as it is impressive.

Last night at the House of Blues in Dallas, the four-piece sold out their second area show in just four months. Only, well, this time, the room where this concert was held was about triple the size of the Cambridge Room of the same venue, where they played in June.

Against a dark backdrop, only illuminated by brilliantly simple light bulbs, the band reached for roughly the same material as the previous stop. Mumford & Sons made sure to bring the same energy, however, even if they carried themselves as more of a set of experienced veterans this time.

Last time, these charming fellows from London seemed like doe-eyed, gracious newbies that were amazed anyone in Texas knew who they were.

The brisk harmonies and anthemic sweep of each, ahem, anthem, had no problems filling the larger room, as the band opened with the song that opens their album with the same title, "Sigh No More."

This same song just happens to be what they opened up with in June, for whatever that's worth.

Leader of the group, Marcus Mumford, boasted an air of authority that he lacked a little last time. Perhaps that was most visible in the way he rhythmically punished the kick drum which rested at his feet.

In a way, another sign of a band emboldened was how each of the four stood at their microphones. By looking and focusing into only the crowd, and not repeatedly looking over at one another, the Sons showed a tremendous trust in their fellow performers, and that confidence paid dividends.

If there was much of a fault to be found, it was perhaps the way in which the band was too precise, at times. While there were certain tunes that made great use of the live setting and spread their sonic wings a tad, many of the numbers, such as the opening song, were almost too identical to the recorded versions, rendering them a bit predictable.

But that's really just nit-picking.

Of course, few would actually want the band to screw with the most warmly-welcomed song of the night: "Little Lion Man." Drawing from his surprisingly ample supply of ferocity, Mumford gave each F-bomb in the song's contagious chorus an extra bit of spite, and made it clear that this song still means more to him than even to the loudest superfan.

Such claims of carbon copy-ness couldn't be made for "I Gave You All," which had a menacing swirl whirring around it, and followed the slow and sensitive sing-along, "Timshel," expertly.

The key difference in last night's set when compared the June's show is that there was a new song, other than "Lover of Light," which was already introduced to the June Dallas audience.

Whereas that tune boasted a polish that comes with fleshing a tune out, over many months, the really new song, "Below My Feet," had a raw, rocking appeal, thanks to an amped up electric guitar. The overall boisterousness of the new stuff gives a bit of evidence to those who are looking forward to the next Mumford album: The new collection will indeed be kicking things up a few notches, to say the least.

Throughout the course of the night; horns, an accordion, drums and electric guitars were all employed, to great effect. The horns really made themselves known with "Winter Winds."

As was made clear a few months ago: Mumford & Sons's live show is about as folky as a Motorhead show is poppy.

Also, this is a band that really likes playing being on-stage with their touring partners. Members of Cadillac Sky, who had just performed, joined the Englishmen for a dobro-flavored country stomping of "Awake My Soul," to end the regular set.

After again bringing out members from the opening bands to join them in a group number and sending them back to the wings afterwards, the star foursome ended the evening with "The Cave." With its galloping tempo that not only dares everyone to not clap, but actually forces anyone nearby to clap above their head, their set came to an expectedly satisfying close.

Earlier in the night, both openers impressed, in very different, and memorable, ways. London's King Charles, the initial performer, hit the stage at 9 p.m. and played a pleasing solo-set of Oscar Wilde-quoting tunes that did seem as poetic as they did musical. His short set showcased some serious pipes and included a pro-Great Britain version of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," that might have also been a tad racist (there was a line that stated, "Immigration's stealing our nation"), but who knows, really? It's reasonable to think that Billy Joel wasn't in favor of Red China or Jospeh Stalin when he included them in his original.

After the King, Cadillac Sky, who have some locally-based members, here in the DFW area, and have undergone a recent line-up shuffle took the stage. Even without former lead singer, Bryan Sampson, who moved on, they unmistakably showed why it is they have made such a name for themselves. It's easy to see why the typically clique-ish Bluegrass community has embraced them, too. When this five-piece decides to do a little pure, pickin' and grinnin', they show themselves as the type of band that would've made Bill Monroe happy.

Of course, when they plug in and step behind the drum kit, we see why it is that Bill Monroe likely does some do-si-do-ing in his Bluegrass-covered grave. The songs from their latest album, the Dan Auerbach-produced Letters in the Deep, are tailor made for such genre-blurring, in fact. Much of their set contained tunes where the drama swelled, and then released into a celebratory climax. Such music, in the skilled hands of masterful performers such as Cadillac Sky, showed any who may wonder that roots music doesn't have to sound as old as it actually is.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Not much of one, really. Like I stated in my last review of the band, I just really like these bands, and I think the fun they are having on stage rubs off more easily into the crowd than with some other acts.

By The Way: As I made my way around the room to see how the show was coming across in various areas of the club, I noticed that the sound when the performers were speaking was basically inaudible from behind the sound booth and into the back of the bar. The music portion was fine, so that's something, I guess.

Random Note: The in-between set music was a mixture of hits from all the current kings of indie-rock. Band of Horses, Phoenix, My Morning Jacket, and Beach House were some of the acts played. Teen Dream came out in January, as did many other big, indie releases like Spoon and Vampire Weekend. Doesn't that seem like forever ago? Or does it?

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