The Lumineers At Austin360 Amphitheater
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By Lynne Margolis
In the year since GRAMMY nominees the Lumineers' first single, "Ho Hey," began its climb toward hit status, the band's career has catapulted forward with dizzying speed. Their self-titled debut album, released in April 2012, earned them two GRAMMY nominations, including Best New Artist. Of course, they helped build its momentum by touring relentlessly. Their April 26 show in Austin, Texas, came just 10 days after their "Austin City Limits" TV taping.
The concert was held at Austin's newest concert venue, the 14,000-capacity Austin360 Amphitheater, prompting co-founding lead singer/guitarist Wesley Schultz to claim, "This is literally the biggest live crowd we've ever played to." Schultz surely meant it was the largest crowd they've played to in Austin, but even that might be inaccurate; at the ACL festival, the band faced the issue of playing a stage too small to accommodate all the fans who wanted to share their upbeat folk/pop vibe. It's not a bad problem to have, but on this night, both fans and the band had plenty of room to stretch. And the band took advantage by using their full set: a series of old-fashioned parlor chandeliers hovering over faux brass banisters and a vintage black upright piano.
Co-founder Jeremiah Fraites, who handles percussion, mandolin and backing vocals, looked particularly at home as he leaped between instruments and the microphone. With his Joe Palooka features, suspenders and short-brimmed fedora, he could have been cast in O Brother, Where Art Thou? — the 2000 film featuring a soundtrack that helped inspire the acoustic-based roots music resurgence the Lumineers are now riding.
During an approximately hour-long set that seemed faster-paced than their exuberant "Austin City Limits" taping, the band played every track from The Lumineers, plus a few covers, including Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody). "
Before beginning "Slow It Down," Schultz advised any musicians in the crowd to fight to get the songs they want on their albums. If he had to fight for that one to be included on The Lumineers, it was a good decision. But every tune played by the Denver-based band (which also includes pianist Stelth Ulvang and bassist Ben Wahamaki) had charm. "Ho Hey" and "Stubborn Love" were the biggest crowd-pleasers, and the latter song brought the entire audience to their feet for a loud sing-along. An unrecorded tune Schultz called "Duet," sung with the lovely voiced cellist/backing vocalist Neyla Pekarek, particularly evoked the playfulness of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros' "Home" and the lusty tug-of-war lyrics of the Hayes Carll/Cary Ann Hearst duet, "Another Like You."
Schultz and Fraites have a knack for writing songs that alternately pluck heartstrings or tickle the funny bone. "Submarines" and "Charlie Boy" made gloomy war references, but "Classy Girls" was a cute tale of falling in love. Many songs also drew on the past, including "Flapper Girl," which referenced prohibition and Shakespeare. The band even pulled on history for their fife-and-drum-style encore, stepping into the crowd to perform "Darlene" and "Elouise" (for which Fraites wielded a portable kiddie xylophone held by an audience member).
Schultz's pied-piper air comes through even when he's not standing amid his fans. He commanded the stage with timekeeping foot stomps and tenor that sounded like a cross between Glen Hansard and David Gray. As he led the big-sounding band under a luminous moon, he left no doubt that the Lumineers have more hits on the way.
"I Ain't Nobody's Problem"
"Flowers In Your Hair"
"Subterranean Homesick Blues" (Bob Dylan cover)
"Slow It Down"
"This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" (Talking Heads cover)
(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR-affiliate KUTX-FM's "Texas Music Matters," regional and local magazines including Lone Star Music and Austin Monthly, and newspapers nationwide. She has previously contributed to the Christian Science Monitor, Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine. A contributing editor to the encyclopedia, The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen From A To E To Z, she also writes bios for new and established artists.)