Monday, May 21 , 2018, 6:12 pm | Mostly Cloudy 65º


Jeff Moehlis: Mumford & Sons’ (Santa Barbara) Bowl Dance

British band gives a stellar performance at the sold-out show

The hottest ticket in town this week was for Mumford & Sons’ Monday night concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl, a show that sold out two months ago in just 15 minutes. And they didn’t disappoint.

This was a case of Santa Barbara once again reaping the benefits of our relative proximity to the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio. Remember the (before and after Coachella, respectively) visits by Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace and Yo La Tengo last year?

Mumford & Sons were coming off a high-profile slot two days before at Coachella, and for their first-ever gig in Santa Barbara, the British indie folk band performed the “longest set we’ve ever played” — nearly all of their acclaimed debut (and, thus far, only) album, Sigh No More, plus “a bunch of new songs,” and to kick off the encore, a smoking cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.”

The band — which consists of Marcus Mumford (lead vocals, guitar, drums, mandolin), wild man Ben Lovett (vocals, keyboards, accordion, drums), “Country” Winston Marshall (vocals, banjo, dobro) and Ted Dwane (vocals, string bass, drums, guitar), and joined by a seemingly invisible drummer and at times by Captain Nick and the Hornblowers — hit the multipart harmonies (albeit in appropriately rougher fashion) and outdid the already amazing intensity of their studio tracks.

Ted Dwane
Ted Dwane (L. Paul Mann photo)

Their thoughtful songs of regret, lost love, sin, hope and redemption definitely struck a chord with the audience, which sang and danced along all night. Many in the crowd probably shared Mumford’s sentiment that this was “my favorite gig ever.”

It was certainly thrilling to hear their already classic Sigh No More songs, such as the Grammy Award-nominated “Little Lion Man,” “Winter Winds,” “Roll Away Your Stone” and “The Cave,” but an unexpected treat was to hear the new songs “Nothing Is Written,” “Hopeless Wanderer” (at least, they think that’s what it will be called), “Lover of the Light,” “Below My Feet” and “Lover’s Eyes.”

Although in a similar vein to their older songs, the new ones arguably cover a larger range in intensity and seem to make more use of wall-of-brass horns. Their second album, presumably including these songs, is eagerly anticipated.

Ben Lovett
Ben Lovett (L. Paul Mann photo)

The evening started with an enjoyable opening set by The Tallest Man on Earth, the name used by the seemingly average-sized Kristian Matsson from Sweden. His set included a cover of “Gentle On My Mind” by John Hartford, an early-Dylan-esque fingerpicked “love song” called “Love Is All,” the fast-strummed “King of Spain” with lyrics such as “Still I am not from Barcelona / I am not even from Madrid / I am a native of the North Pole / And that can mess up any kid,” and “Thrown Right at Me” with harmony from Amanda Bergman. He nicely set the stage for the main act.

Amusingly, during Mumford & Sons’ set, Lovett recalled that the first time they played in California was in a Los Angeles cafe in front of “about 20 people,” then he paused and said, “Same songs.” On this trip to California, they are reaching many, many more ears, and they are clearly enjoying it.

Country Winston Marshall
“Country” Winston Marshall (L. Paul Mann photo)

Happily, they seem to have fallen for Santa Barbara. Mumford said, “After this experience, we’re definitely coming back, I promise.” Let’s hope so.


Sigh No More
Roll Away Your Stone
Winter Winds
White Blank Page
Nothing Is Written (new song)
Hopeless Wanderer (new song)
Little Lion Man
Lover of the Light (new song)
Thistle & Weeds
After the Storm
Below My Feet (new song)
Awake My Soul
Dust Bowl Dance


Wagon Wheel (Old Crow Medicine Show cover)
Lover’s Eyes (new song)
The Cave

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site,

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