Mumford & Sons — hootenanny for the soul

“Listen to the words,” the young woman behind me stage-whispered to her chatty date. “Are you listening?”

He wasn’t. But I was and so was most of the rapt, standing-room-only crowd that crammed the Greek Theatre at University of California, Berkeley, for the second of three sold-out Mumford & Sons concerts in late May.

This is what I had come for — not just a concert, but a shared experience with a congregation of strangers (and a few friends).

“Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free,” Marcus Mumford and his bandmates — Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane — sang. “There is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see, the beauty of love as it was made to be.”

More biblical allusions, declarations of spiritual yearning and what felt like prayers of the heart followed during the 90-minute show and the remaining two concerts.

I was not surprised. As a longtime fan, it was what I had expected to hear. Since their debut in 2009, Mumford & Sons has achieved monumental success, both critically and commercially, particularly among a subset of diehard fans I’d describe as the spiritual-but-not-religious.

It’s a modifier that could be (and has been) applied to the band members themselves. Frontman and lyricist Mumford, 26, who was born in Anaheim, Calif., is the son of John and Eleanor Mumford, founders of the evangelical, charismatic Vineyard Churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland. He is a pastor’s kid, reared in the church where his musical vocation first took root.

Recently, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine where he was asked about his religious predilections, Mumford declined to affix the “Christian” label to himself, causing a lot of handwringing from some evangelical fans who thought he was “one of ours.”

His spiritual life is a “work in progress,” Mumford said, adding that he has never doubted the existence of God and that his pastoring parents aren’t lamenting the condition of his soul. Continue reading


Cathleen Falsani is the faith and values columnist for The Orange County Register.


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