“Welcome back to live shows,” the lead singer and guitarist of The Lumineers, Wesley Schultz smiles as he strums his guitar. Hearing the eruption of screams from the sold-out crowd at the iconic O2 arena, the feeling was utterly and stupendously mutual.
Exiting the North Greenwich line before the show, anticipation of the American folk-rock band filled the air. Fellow travellers sang Ho Hey at the top of their lungs as they climbed the escalators, the feeling of exhilaration was unmistakable. Family and friends making their way to the 20,000 seat stadium, admiring The Lumineers up in lights, fostering a sense of togetherness for a show that was well and truly needed.
The American folk rock band are currently celebrating the success of their latest studio album Brightside, and as we took our seats in the arena, I said to my friend “if The Lumineers are as good as their new album, I’m going to say they blew the roof off the O2 in my review.” Which is a little joke as the O2 does indeed have a hole in its roof due to storm Eunice. My friend tried to dissuade me from this but I thought it would be funny, so guess what? It’s in the review. Anyway, incredible jokes aside, The Lumineers have always been about sincerity, their music is full of intimacy with hints of grandeur, and their performance at the O2 was no different.
The stage consisted of a star-shaped screen raised in the centre, and a walkway that went onto the arena floor that circled part of the crowd; allowing the band to play amongst their fans. The lights for the show were visible on stage, making The Lumineers feel as if they were part of a travelling roadshow that goes from town-to-town; lugging their equipment around for each performance. A do-it-yourself approach to performing, intimacy in terms of stage with a back to basics musical approach. Americana nestled in simplicity coupled with anthems.
The supporting act Gregory Alan Isakov fitted pleasantly into The Lumineers ambience. The Colorado-based singer-songwriter has a soulful quality, his music enthusing warmth with gently strummed guitars and violin accompaniment. His blend of folk/Americana moulds a tender soundscape that compliments the feel of the night. The once farmer-by-trade paints a mural of sound that is naturalistic and homely, a charming precursor to the main show.
Then, at about 8.55 pm, Schultz and founding member Jeremiah Fraites, appeared out of nowhere to open the show. Standing on opposite sides of the walkway, the two originals settled into their album title track, Brightside. A lovely sparse electric soundscape that enthralled the audience with many singing along in a folk enthused haze. Roaming around the stage, the lead singer and drummer seemed as joyful as the fans they were performing to, feeding off of their energy and vice-versa. As if they were both waiting for this moment.
The title track led into the bands classic Cleopatra. With pounding drums and rhythmic guitar, the song warranted a call-and-response from the crowd. Cementing itself as an anthem for the unplugged breed. Schultz utilised the middle of the walkway before joining the band for an eruption of sound that came halfway through the performance. The band basking in every rugged and tousled moment of euphoria. It’s a vibrant and fun song that flowed nicely into another fan-favourite.
The crowd erupted as they heard the first notes of Ho Hey with the band blossoming throughout, aware of the impact the song has on their fans. Controlled chaos filled the stage as everyone in the arena sang along to every single word. I felt as if I could hear the tube singers from every direction, this was their moment (like that Martine McCutcheon song). It’s these moments in live shows that are touching to be a part of, the sense of community amongst a room full of strangers (damn, I’m welling up here). The Lumineers are a band that seem tailor-made for these moments.
Throughout the performance, Schultz spoke to the crowd about inspiration and his absolute joy at being able to perform again. The band also looked elated, a feeling absorbed into every song. The barefoot piano player, the smiling violinist, the ecstatic bass player, all full of beaming positivity and anarchic energy. They were proud to be a live band again, proud to be doing what they do best. It was a pleasure to witness the companionship amongst the musicians. With enigmatic songs like Gloria and Angela being realized, their positivity was positively infectious, it even made a dent in my cold dead heart.
During Never Really Mine the band looked entirely at home. Their playful harmonies and screams complemented Schultz’s powerful voice as they crammed the walkway. It’s hard to describe the band’s vocal contributions; they are sharp, piercing howls that wouldn’t feel out of place in a cosy dimly-lit folk pub. A Lumineers performance is full of affectionate whimsy and it’s absolutely lovely to watch. Encouraging us to clap our hands and stomp our feet, we were made to feel part of the show, made to feel connected to the band and to our fellow attendees. Their use of the walkway added to their whimsical performance.
In Slow It Down, Schultz stood at the centre of the walkway with Fraites backing him, the two exhibiting a rapport that only years of friendship can produce. The band is so enigmatic that you rarely notice the videos that accompany each song. Your attention is solely on the band, solely fixated on Schultz’s vocals that seem to impress with every song. Schultz has a dynamic quality to his voice as well as a softness, he is able to command the room with power and gentleness. An impressive feat especially with the size of the arena. He felt comfortable in the vastness.
The Lumineers are made for the big stage. Rather than alter their intimate sound, they have taken their stage presence and turned it up. During Ophelia, Schultz stalks the stage, revelling in the chaos that the song basks in. For Big Parade they brought back Isakov, portraying a family feel to the travelling roadshow. Ripples pulse throughout the audience as the band stomp in unison, an effect only broken by a game of musical statues. The audience in a frenzy as the band finally move to the anticipation of sound. The Lumineers exhibiting maturity as they control every aspect of their crowd.
Schultz falls to the floor multiple times throughout the night; band members run wild on stage and handstands are attempted throughout. I even saw the piano player pass a guitar pick to an audience member with his toes (now that’s what I call Covid friendly!). It’s this shared joyfulness that builds upon the intimate roadshow feeling. The encore saw the band perform four songs, including a cover of You Can’t Always Get What You Want and their soon to be classic Birthday. It ends with a raucous feel that carries us all the way home.
With an array of songs to choose from, the band has solidified themselves as a folkin’ juggernaut of a live act. With the crowd enjoying every single second, it’s safe to say The Lumineers blew the roof off the O2 (sorry, not sorry).
Flowers in Your Hair
Slow It Down
Never Really Mine
Sleep on the Floor
Where We Are
It Wasn’t Easy to Be Happy for You
Big Parade (with Gregory Alan Isakov)
Leader of the Landslide / You Can’t Always Get What You Want