This past summer at the Newport Folk Festival Mumford and Sons were the surprise Saturday headliner. They had Maggie Rogers out with them for part of their set and even gave her time to sing “Alaska” with them backing her so I was unsurprised to see that they were going to be touring with her as an opening act. It also made me really want to see said tour enough that I was willing to go see it at Capital One Arena.
In general I loathe arena shows and try to avoid them unless there is someone I want to see bad enough and it’s my only option. I refuse to ever go to another stadium show though. Arena shows are pretty terrible because they are not designed for concerts. The music always sounds muddy, and of course they are huge so you’re so far away from the stage in general. Although as much as everyone wants to bulldoze Royal Farms Arena because it’s so old and outdated, I actually don’t find it a terrible place to see a concert. Anyway, I wanted to see this show enough that I decided seeing it an arena venue was worth it and it was.
By the time this show rolled around I was more excited to see Maggie Rogers than I was Mumford and Sons. She is one of my current favorite singers. Her first major label album isn’t even due out until January and yet she is a solid stage presence even in an arena, which I find even seasoned acts sometimes have a hard time commanding if they aren’t relying on a lot of fancy technical stage production that has nothing to do with them or their music. She was fantastic to watch perform and her voice is just amazing.
She’s originally from Easton on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and she talked about how she first saw Mumford and Sons at Merriweather Post Pavilion when she was 16. I was also at that show. It was the terrible one where there were crazy thunderstorms and we all got hailed on and then the lawn was madness for the rest of the concert. It must be surreal to be in the audience for a band when you’re 16 and then 8 short years later to be headlining for them in arenas. She told that story leading into her song “Light On”, which is all about everything good and bad that happens when you rocket to fame like Maggie Rogers did after a video of Pharrell discovering her song “Alaska” went viral. Spoiler alert “Light On” is going to show up as my favorite song in my annual most memorable pop culture blog post for 2018. I will have more to say about the song then, but needless to say seeing her sing it live last night was the highlight of the night for me. It’s obviously not even 2019 yet and anything could happen, but there’s a good chance that her album could be my favorite 2019 album. My favorite album of 2018 was something that came out in January. I’ll let you try and guess what that might be until I reveal it in another week or so.
Mumford and Sons were also good. This is the fifth time I’ve seen them in concert and the first time I’ve seen them at an indoor venue. I heard some people walking into the parking garage with us commenting that they hope Mumford and Sons comes back in the summer to play at an outdoor venue because it’s so much better and I would concur but I think they did an admirable job of trying to make an arena seems small. Their stage was in the center of the floor and they had standing room only floor tickets on either side of the stage. I had originally been trying to get tickets in one of the sections on the side of the arena because they would have been closer to the stage, but wound up getting seats on one of the ends, which wound up being way better. We had a great view of the stage and I don’t think any of the seats on the side would have been that great because they would have been looking at the side of the stage the whole time.
The band moved around a lot and faced different directions. There were drum kits set up all over the place. Both ends of the stage were higher than the main part and they used these to create smaller more intimate seeming stage spaces. They even did one of those things where they gathered around one single mic and played a song acoustic. That’s brave in an arena. Marcus Mumford also went out and went all around the arena during one of the songs. I thought the girl behind me might keel over from excitement the way she was screaming with Beatles at Shea Stadium levels of excitement and the closest he got to us was an aisle two sections away.
As I said I’m not much for all the stage production and theatrics that usually go into arena shows and there was some of that but I don’t feel like they relied on it too much. There was one moment I will totally give them and say the pyrotechnics were totally on point. I have always loved the point in the song “Believe” where the music sort of drops out and then everything kicks into high gear. They definitely used some pyrotechnics to great effect for that, which can see in the video. It’s not from the show I was at because it doesn’t seem like anyone has posted one yet, but same deal. The rest of the pyrotechnics I couldn’t have cared less about but these worked for me really well.
They also had Maggie Rogers back out during the stupidly long encore to sing “Awake My Soul” with them, which was amazing. But also why you gonna take your leave of the stage after playing just over an hour and then come back for a 30 minute encore. Encores are dumb anyway, and I super appreciate the rare band that refuses to take them like Ryan Adams and Wye Oak, but if you’re going to do it do it like a normal band and come back out for 2 maybe 3 songs not 5 .
It was a really great show though and I’m glad I put aside my hatred of arena shows and trekked down to DC in the rain to see it. Of course now I’m just kicking myself for not getting tickets to see Maggie Rogers at the 9:30 Club in March and now they’re all sold out, and I hate feeding the scalpers. We’ll see if I cave as the show gets closer because if she was that great at Capital One Arena I can only imaging how stellar she will be at someplace like the 9:30 Club, which is such a better venue.