December 8 brought the “third time’s a charm” marker for the British foursome, Mumford and Sons, on Saturday Night Live, and they were certainly raring to go. “We're coming for you... Third time’s a charm,” gushed the posting to SNL on the band’s social media, noting that “we grew up huge fans of the show,” so naturally, taking the coveted stage is a “complete honour,” in proper British spelling.

The enthusiastic verbiage was hardly a matchstick compared to the performances once more brought to this national stage by Mumford and Sons in support of their fourth album, “Delta.” The flicker of the overhead lights on the opening of “Guiding Light” revealed Marcus Mumford strumming his acoustic guitar, as Ben Lovett stood at his custom-branded keyboard, Winston Marshall straddled his banjo, and Ted Dwane embraced an electric bass.

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A backlight of lighted candles actually surrounded the stage, as the combined energy of the band built into the first chorus.

Camps and critics remain divided about the infusion of electronica into the instrumentation and sensibility that brought Mumford and Sons to world attention in 2009 with “Sigh No More,” followed by 2012’s “Babel,” which took the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2013, and cemented Mumford and Sons as a musical force for the ages.

Mumford and Sons sing straight from the heart with characteristic passion in their third stopver on SNL. [Image source: SNL-YouTube]
Mumford and Sons sing straight from the heart with characteristic passion in their third stopver on SNL. [Image source: SNL-YouTube]

While some were dismayed that “Wilder Mind” made the band too much of a sonic copycat to Coldplay, with many mourning the absence of banjo in the experimental, spacious canvas of the album, the songwriting embraced grown-up love and pain with the same vigor and depth.

Mumford and Sons took fans for a deeper musical dive than just what was on camera during the SNL timeslot, and they still have much to say about the power of love and unity.

Unchanging spirit

No matter how any particular listener takes the artistic evolution of Mumford and Sons, the absorbing passion of these master musicians for the music they play is undeniable.

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No band in history displays the same measure of joy in simply playing together that seems to overtake Mumford and Sons night after night. Marcus Mumford has assured fans early along the US dates that he and his bandmates will continue to perform “as long as we possibly can,” as noted in PopCulture.com. Clearly, these men believe that the Gentlemen of the Road should embrace this life of travel, “while we are young,” as “Whispers in the Dark” echoes.

While “Guiding Light” encapsulates familiar themes of divine intertwining with human love, more than anything the anthem is a call to action over complacency—a pleading not to simply “hurl your words from on high” or “sit with folded hands and become blind.” Marcus Mumford saw the tendency for that kind of social blindness to be consuming in the wake of the Grenfell Towers fire. Mumford became directly involved with victims and families involved, and that consciousness is a prevailing theme of the song, which calls each of us to join to be forces of light.

The lights glowed brighter as Mumford and Sons surged with energy under the synthesizers’ crescendo, creating an eruption of applause.

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The cheers could have been lifted from the Shepherd's Bush days, except the stomps were missing,

Going to the Delta

“Delta” was the second and final offering from Mumford and Sons during the SNL broadcast. Faithful fans in attendance were treated to four more songs, featuring their tour opener, Maggie Rogers. The lighting again is subdued for the title track of the album, highlighting only Mumford at the summons to “meet you at the Delta,” the mother of waters, in a search of self-discovery.

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Marshall’s banjo plucks are as distinct as the contagious chorus, which questions love and its motives. More than ever, Marcus Mumford wears his heart on his sleeve, walking forward to the audience, making dramatic gestures and passionately moving from the opening words from 1 Corinthians to asking the state of affairs when all is “just dust to dust.”

The simple question of “Will you put your arms around me?” opens in a global sense through to the amplified close, half-scolding, “Does my love prefer the others? Does my love just make you feel good?” “Delta” has been dubbed the “emo album” from Mumford and Sons, yet their emotions have never been hidden from fans. Lin Manuel Miranda once famously asserted that “love is love is love is love is love is love.” Love presents in many facets, and few loves prove true. For these SNL moments, though, Mumford and Sons, and several hundred more let love rule.

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