Mumford & Sons: Hootenanny For The Soul
- Monday, June 24, 2013
There was no interview to be had, but in hindsight, it would have been something of a fool’s errand. I don’t know that there’s anything Mumford could have told me in a conversation that I didn’t know after hearing the band play and watching the audience have an experience with the music and the musicians themselves.
Much of what I learned came not through words, but in posture, gesture, and moments at once visceral and transcendent. When the band sang a cappella or in softer tones, the audience collectively leaned forward, listening intently, perhaps even prayerfully.
The most meaningful and powerful moments in the show for me arrived with the same song: Timshel. It takes its name from John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden, which has been described as a modern midrash of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. In their song, Mumford & Sons begin with another line borrowed from Steinbeck, Cold is the water, from Of Mice and Men. The song is more contemplative than rollicking. But it builds …
“Cold is the water that freezes your already cold mind,” it begins, the quartet singing in harmony with no accompaniment. “Death is at your doorstep, and it will steal your innocence. But it will not steal your substance.” As the crowd joined, I saw thousands of raised hands and upturned faces, some with eyes closed, repeating the lyrics at the top of their lungs. “You are not alone in this,” we sang. “You are not alone in this. As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand.”
It was a sacred promise from fellow travelers along the spiritual journey that is this life. Mumford offered no easy answers, no trite salvos.
“I will tell the night, whisper, ‘lose your sight,’” he sang, “but I can’t move the mountains for you.” Such heavy lifting is the work of the Spirit alone. While we wait, the hold music is marvelous, and we’re in great company.
*This Article Published 6/24/2013
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