prospering British folk band, in the middle of a long tour of Australia, the US and the UK, their newly released album Babel a smash on all fronts – wander to centre stage. First singer and guitarist Marcus Mumford, wearing a black suit, then bassist Ted Dwane, in leather bomber and T-shirt. Next bearded banjo player Winston Marshall, his blue flannel shirt hanging loose, and pianist Ben Lovett, wrapped in a woollen coat.
Mumford begins to perform, a murmured cover of a country song, and as the others join in the rhythm of the music gets to them. Dwane lowers his body at the waist, knees out. Watching from the stands I wonder if it's a fleeting thing, an itch or a bit of back ache … But Mumford, infected, begins a fancy kickstep. Soon Marshall is doing an elaborate foot-to-foot jig, and then they're all bounding around. Shoulder dips. Yee-ha faces. It's an impromptu hoedown.g
Having spent the day in the company of this thoughtful, friendly, uncommonly levelheaded band – charmed, completely – a protective part of me sort of wishes they wouldn't hoedown. Four polite Englishmen in their middle 20s, feigning like firewater drunks in a Eugene O'Neill play: it's exactly the stuff that makes their detractors groan. Since forming in 2007 Mumford & Sonshave hard-toured their way to a vast market for throaty folk that's strong on banjo and bass drum. They have released two enormous albums. But, wow, do they take some knocks back home.