The Lumineers // O2 Academy, Leeds // 24.10.16
The Lumineers are currently on a year long world tour for their second album Cleopatra, which at first glance doesn’t appear to be strikingly different than their debut album. It’s more mature and a little more complex, wanting for a hit track like Ho Hey but rooted more heavily in folk. Their first album and tour were heavily praised for their quality and energy, and with more hits now under their belt, fans are excited to see what they’ll do with them.
Immediately, they launched into their hits, getting their popular songs out of the way at the beginning of the set. Ho Hey and Ophelia were predictably well received, as quick, energetic folk-pop songs generally are. They’re good at performing these songs, if a little robotically, with very little talking between. With the sheer size of this tour, their more set songs are clearly rehearsed to the point of reflex.
It was sometime after they’d finished playing their obvious songs that the band finally seemed to relax a little. The shift came in the form of an acoustic song that, according to lead singer Wesley Shultz, works very well in smaller venues. Everyone who wasn’t playing a necessary instrument stepped to the front of the stage and abandoned their microphones. To hold a standing crowd of 2,000 people in total silence without electric help is difficult, especially to pair it with complex harmonies and a set of children’s bells. Still, nobody touched a phone or seemed to disengage, a calculated risk that completely worked.
From there, they dug into a loud, active cover of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, and they seemed like a completely different group. The abrupt endings of their popular tracks faded into longer playouts of their lesser known pieces. The instruments began to migrate through the musicians, and Shultz transitioned from standing still and reciting lyrics to dancing around in the fun. The mandolin player, totally barefoot, jumped up onto one of the amplifiers and serenaded the room while Shultz left the stage and sang from inside the crowd. A single blast of confetti towards the end was about all they used for theatrics, and a simple piano solo took the focus squarely back on the music.
Despite their changes in energy, the Lumineers consist of genuinely very talented musicians. Shultz’s voice is striking, Neyla Pekarek’s cello sends chills, and the drummer and bass players took turns at the piano and the mandolin without any hesitation. The execution of their songs was perfect, a string of consistency through their varied set. Dead Sea, the largest vocal performance on their debut album, was a stunning display of skill and songwriting that the crowd adored.
They closed with Stubborn Love, decisively saved for the encore. The repetitive chanting chorus throughout the room was reminiscent of a large campfire sing-along, confirming again that they know what they do best. The Lumineers are more than just Ho Hey. They’re a Coloradoan folk band, clad in matching suspenders and wide brimmed hats, singing songs about life, and when they remember that, they are spectacular. The beautiful quality of folk is in its contagious ability to pull people into an atmosphere without having to know every single word, and maybe that’s why they chose to play all their hits at the beginning of their set. They set out to prove that, with their new album and their years of experience, they can make mature music with great skill, and they definitely succeeded.