If ever there was a mystery about how The Lumineers became so popular so fast, last night’s appearance at The Tower Theater solved it: they involve the fans in their concerts as much as themselves.
Having catchy songs with singalong refrains helps, sure. But even given those, other acts might make performances a one-directional thing – they play, you watch, and applaud when it seems appropriate. The Lumineers, on the other hand, make the crowd feel involved and at home, all the way to the coat rack and living room piano they deck the stage out with.
“This is a new piano, so we thought we’d break it in,” explained player Stelth Ulvang as the band launched into the barroom jangle of “I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem But My Own” – a cover of a song by their Denver compatriot Sawmill Joe. This wasn’t a tune that folks knew, but its snappy melody had them bopping around all the same. “Flowers in Your Hair,” later on, raised a rousing chorus – it’s the first track on their self-titled 2012 album, so it that familiarity (and its killer melody) was an easy in for the room to join on. The band took this opportunity to push things a step further.
For the first of two performances of their signature song “Ho Hey,” singer Wes Schwartz and drummer Jeremiah Fraites played offstage, among the fans. “We want to do this one without microphones,” Schwartz explained. “So turn off your phones, put away your cameras, just be in the moment with us.”
The sound that ensued was less the acoustic instruments and the band, and more the capacity crowd singing along at the top of their lungs. Which was totally the point – the song was so ingrained in their consciousness they were able to join in, not just through the ho’s and hey’s but along the winding, romanticized verses about traveling on the Chinatown bus to find love in Manhattan.
With only a 40-minute album under their belts, The Lumineers stretched out their set by playing three unreleased songs (one had lyrics to the effect of “All the pretty days,” another made reference to a drama queen) and a couple more covers. Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was spun anew to put interesting emphasis on its chord changes and instrumental passages (as opposed to the original, which was just words, words and some harmonica), while The Talking Heads’ “Naive Melody” didn’t connect as strongly. Still, these were songs the folks knew, songs they could join in on – and they did.
The Lumineers revisited “Ho Hey” towards the end of their set, rocking a proper full-band rendition of it and then inviting openers Y La Bamba onstage to accompany “Stubborn Love.” The hits were exhausted by the time the encore rolled around, but that was fine. “Big Parade” has a big chorus, and everybody knew the words to that one too.
I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem But My Own (Sawmill Joe cover)
Flowers In Your Hair
Ho Hey (a capella)
Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bob Dylan cover)
Slow It Down
Drama Queen (new song)
Stubborn Love (performed w/ Y La Bamba)
Ho Hey (full band)
All the Pretty Days (new song)
Naive Melody (Talking Heads cover)
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