“Thanks for making this place feel so small,” Wesley Schultz said after he and drummer Jeremiah Fraites sojourned onto the floor of the USF Sun Dome for a two-song performance in the thick of the GA crowd, illuminated by a single spotlight beam and with simple accompaniment by the bandmates left on stage. [Words by Leilani, photos by Tracy.]
The heartfelt sentiment was likely shared by everyone in the room this past Saturday night, when Grammy-winning Denver outfit The Lumineers charmed and delighted with their buoyant roots-folk serenades.
The musicians trickled out to his or her appointed spots to herald the show's start, the stage bathed in hues of interchanging blue and red light with warm pools of glowing yellow cast from elegant candelabra-style chandeliers strung at different heights, which gave it the big stage an overall more intimate feel.
On one side, Neyla Pekarek’s perfectly-miked cello rested on an upraised platform, from which she drew deep dignified notes when she wasn’t up front, offering vocal harmonies at Schultz’s right; in the back and center on a drumkit that he sometimes abandoned in favor of playing a front-stage kick-drum or tambourine, Fraites; to the left of Shultz’s front and center position, newest member Ben Wahamaki, adding subdued and steady low-end reinforcement; and to Wahamaki’s left, an upright piano with old-fashioned bearing, plunked by barefooted, multi-instrumental Stelth Ulvang, who occasionally played the keys with his toes, juggled accordion and mandolin, and generally bounced and capered around the stage most of the night.
The five-piece cycled through various configurations throughout the 90-minute set in a way that felt fluid and natural, with Schultz crooning tenderly or howling raggedly at the heart of it all; solo, just vocals and guitar, joined by Ulvang on jaunty piano, dueting with Pekarek, supported by a percs-wielding Fraites, or surrounded by all his bandmates in the traditional full-band setup.
The setlist was a mix of original material off The Lumineers’ 2012 self-titled debut — dusty road odes, heart-squeezing ballads and rousing roots stompers — and the momentum was generally fast-paced and made for clapping or singing along, aside from a lull in the middle that slowed everything down for a little too long and featured a new stripped-down duet by Schultz and Pekarek about falling love.
Among the highlights: the jaunty rollicking ragtime and percussion-washed jig of “Ain’t Nobody’s Problem,” their cover of a song by Denver indie blues artist Sawmill Joe; upbeat accordion-laced “Flowers in Your Hair,” opening spare with kick-drum and guitar before fleshing out to full-band sound; a galloping rootsy cover of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” that seemed to sail over right over the crowd’s head (or maybe it just seemed that way because the lyrical streamage couldn’t be sung along to); and “Slow It Down, ” which was re-imagined live with an ironically sped-up ending.
Schultz paused shortly after Lumineers launched into hit single “Ho Hey” and made a request that’s starting to become de rigueur at modern concerts: “Would you mind putting down your cell phones so you can be in the moment with us?” While a stubborn few kept their screens raised, the majority of fans complied, and the full-arena sing-and-shout-along began in what was a truly lovely moment of togetherness — even if it was a bit contrived.
The group closed with the poignant anthem of “Stubborn Love” (“Keep your head up, keep your love!”) and the darling sweet ode, “Flapper Girl,” before returning for a three-song encore had a big heart-squeezing cover of “Sweet Virginia” right in its middle, with all the tour’s support musicians invited out to take part in a boisterous reading of the tune that seemed to reflect the feel-good feeling pervading the show and the show at large.
Dr. Dog gave a rousing opening performance and proved they could fill an arena with their strong multi-part harmonies and infectious vintage-informed indie psych rock/garage pop sounds. Their set touched on 2006 Anti- debut Shame Shame (“Where Did All the Shadow People Go?”, “Jackie Wants a Black Eye”), 2012’s Be the Void (“That Old Black Hole,” “Lonesome,” “How Long Must I Wait?”), and brand new LP, this year’s B-Room (“Broken Heart,” “Too Weak to Ramble,” “The Truth”), and even offered up a cover of Architecture in Helsinki’s “Heart It Races.”
Ain’t Nobody’s Problem
Flowers in Your Hair
Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bob Dylan)
Slow It Down
Falling (in Love? — new song, duet)
Darlene (played in the middle of the arena)
Elouise (played in the middle of the arena)
Sweet Virginia (Rolling Stones Cover, with members of Dr. Dog and Nathanial Rateliff)
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