Midnight in the Olympia has a special place in the hearts of many eighties teens. When Gerry Sinnot took over the venue in 1977 he began this series of concerts that for a while looked unfortunately as though they could fade away. Thankfully gigs like this one came back some years ago to keep the tradition started with acts ranging from The Fleadh Cowboys to John Martin alive and well.
I don’t know if I’m alone in this or not, but I was shocked to find Mumford & Sons were not Irish. Admittedly, this was only whilst hearing them from afar on radio and one proper listen to Marcus Mumford’s distinct accent tells you otherwise, but such is the symbiotic nature of British and Irish folk music that the merry band slot into the scene over here seamlessly. Seeing them announce a special midnight slot in the Olympia I was like a kid at Christmas.
Sigh No More was just finishing the year it spent absolutely owning the charts and by their own admission this was somewhat of a “we wrote some new songs” tour, covering their established hits and trying out some new material. Of this new material, though my memory may be letting me down, “Broken Crown” and “Lover Of The Light” were two heard on the night that inevitably made it onto Babel. But as good as the new material was, the night belonged to the hits.
“Winter Winds” and “Sigh No More” were real standouts of the night but magic happened when things got quiet. Approaching the front of the stage, stripped of microphones and all amplification the group launched into the tear jerker that is “Timshel”. Acoustic, unguarded and brilliant. In their genre it would be simple for Mumford & Sons to have become stale and generic but moments like this and all the rest of the tailored content they include in their shows sets them apart.
The wrap up of course covered the two huge hits “The Cave” and “Little Lion Man”, the latter prompting what is to this day the greatest sing along I have ever heard. It was Dublin city the day after Paddy’s Day, a day when magic, as well as the smell of stale booze and vomit, still hangs in the air. We were all up for the session and the house band was rockin’. The Olympia was perfect, sitting there in that witching hour when all kinds of alchemy and anarchy makes itself know to the world. One of those nights. Those nights you remember, those nights that never leave the mind’s eye. Class incarnate.
Next week’s Live In Concert – Eric Clapton