A theatre in the middle of East Anglia hardly seems the ideal place for one of the biggest bands on the planet to play a scheduled gig. Though this is named “The Tour of Two Halves” – in essence a tour of theatres and arenas – Mumford & Sons are a band that seem comfortable having a hoedown in Ipswich’s Regent Theatre.
After the rather bizarre opening act of Piff the Magic Dragon – essentially a grown man dressed in a dinosaur outfit, doing purposely bad but amusing magic tricks (including laminating a Chihuahua) – the main support Dawes take to the theatre stage. Hailing form Los Angeles, they prove a cut above the generic support band with their mix of Death Cab for Cutie’s perceptive melodies and Kings Of Leon’s muscle power.
When My Time Comes, a set highlight, almost convinces the seated crowd to stand. Dawes don’t allow their set to suffer from a common vibe, mixing blues and rock before it descends into all out energy, with frontman Taylor Goldsmith jumping across the confined space like Mario dodging fireballs.
With the crowd somewhat convinced by Dawes, Mumford & Sons take to the stage to deafening screams as the assembled jump up in unison. Opening their set with the title track from their second album Babel, Marcus and co. waste no time in following with recent single I Will Wait. The melodious anthem is joyous, but its burst of power is somewhat blighted by the low sound mix, an unfortunate set-spanning problem due to the venue’s natural role as a theatre. Nevertheless, this is redeemed mainly by the sheer atmosphere and energy of the crowd – by the looks of it, most of Ipswich.
For the quiet ballad Timshel, the band proceeds to the front of the stage under dim lighting. The rowdy audience gradually seep down after the hushed insistence of Mumford. The resulting performance is pleasant, but the song suffers in its endeavour to be substantial. The song Dust Bowl Dance towards the end of the set also falls under this fault, creating an unnecessary superfluity that is as clear as crystal. Mumford & Sons clearly try to be something more meaningful lyrically and musically, but ultimately it is their anthemic belters that shine through tonight.
Winter Winds and Little Lion Man create mass sing alongs, and the band bring Dawes back on for a version of Awake My Soul that adds little, but is given an unlikely boost by Piff returning with his dog, the microphone turned to its tiny face in a comic gesture.
The band finish their set with the seductive slow-builder Lover’s Eyes and a final sing-along of The Cave, demonstrating their live power and ending a show with a crowd atmosphere unlike any other. Mumford & Sons are in no way groundbreaking or provocative as a band, but they put on a show that shows pure, enjoyable entertainment.