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Mumford & Sons and The Middle East played MHOW (pics)

by Andrew Frisicano

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Mumford & Sons and the Middle East played to a full house last night, 5/17, at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

As the night’s only opener, the Middle East (a band on their first US tour who just played their first North American shows period around SXSW in March) had a bit of pressure on them to hold the attention of an audience primed for Mumford’s more uptempo fare. Smartly, their set pivoted around two songs “The Darkest Part” and “Blood” – the heartrending twin singles off their debut Recordings of… EP. Around those were dynamic ballads and an onstage shuffle of instruments that included a trumpet, glockenspiel, flute and a bottle-cap-adorned rain stick.

They opened one song with a warning (“It’s not a very good song – it’s all about the words so you have to listen”), but that proved unnecessary as the talking blues trot grew into a pleasantly engrossing roar. Another, their second-to-last tune, stayed a bit too long in its hushed melody, under growing crowd conversation. It’s not unusual for the Middle East to hover around a whisper before breaking free – as they did, led by their suddenly unchained drummer, in the climax of “Blood.”

As for Mumford & Sons, the band inspired a Bowery-full sing-along at their packed show in February. Fans at MHOW also tried to match the band in volume and vigor. For both, Mumford & Co. set the bar high, with spot-on harmonies and songs that are arranged with a pop-tuned ear. Though they only have a 12-song debut, their songs are impressively consistent, and come together as a well-structured set (that was structured much the same as the February Bowery show).

The band did some shuffling of their own, with frontman Marcus Mumford taking up drums for a few songs, including newer song (and clear single) “Lover of the Light.” With tunes like that and other gems, you can’t really begrudge Mumford & Sons’ clean-cut radio-readiness. Though they have a certain “old-timey style,” it seems unforced.

The band came back for and encore and called back The Middle East to join them. Both bands play again tonight at Webster Hall. Tomorrow (5/19) the Middle East play a show at Mecury Lounge with Mountain Man.

More pictures from MHOW (and a video from the past Bowery show) are below….

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Mumford & Sons – Lover of the Light – New Song – Bowery Ballroom 2/18/10

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