Everything is Illuminated :: The Lumineers at Memorial Coliseum :: 9.22.13
by Yume Delegato,posted Sep 30 2013 12:51PM
If you live in the Portland area and have a love for alternative & indie rock, that love may lead you to some interesting places. You may see bands in basements (Doug Fir), in upstairs ballrooms (Crystal Ballroom), or even in sandwich shops (Bunk Bar). And once in a while, if a band has enough mainstream appeal, you might find yourself making the trek to one of Portland's twin arena venues: Memorial Coliseum and the newly re-christened Moda Center. And for the masses of screaming fans that crowded into Memorial Coliseum on the 22nd, that pilgrimage ended when Denver's own The Lumineers took to the stage in a blaze of lights.
But before we dish on Wesley and the gang, let's talk openers. Fellow Denver native Nathaniel Rateliff kicked off the show with a short, low-key set. While Rateliff's particular brand of folk rock is very pleasant to listen to, it's so understated that it runs the risk of being unmemorable. Second act Dr. Dog kicked it up a notch their brand of indie rock. With their two front men sharing the singing duties, Dr. Dog almost sounds like some sort of Bob Dylan / Tom Petty side-project - although interestingly, they don't sound anything like Dylan & Petty's actual real-life side project, The Traveling Wilburys. They treated the crowd to a solid cover of Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart It Races," and their songs "Lonesome" and "Jackie Wants a Black Eye" are both pretty catchy.
(Turn up the lights - The Lumineers live at Memorial Coliseum.)
Although crowd response had been fairly enthusiastic during the open acts, it was nothing in comparison with the almost-frenzied excitement with which concert-goers greeted The Lumineers when they finally came out, and it continued unabated through all of their set.
The idea of "arena folk" is a concept that I've always found interesting. How do you convert a musical genre that's known for its mellow nuances into a sound that can fill a ten thousand seat venue? Some bands aren't equal to the task, but The Lumineers handle the translation deftly. Although lead singer Wesley Schultz's foot-stomping promenades on stage take a little getting used to, his vocals are clear and strong, and piano player Stelth Ulvang pounds at the ivories with an intensity worthy of Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis (except without, you know, the weirdness).
The concert itself kicked off with the band's most recent single, "Submarines" and followed it up a few songs later with the song that catapulted them to stardom, "Ho Hey." Although they stumbled a little on "Ho Hey" (they seemed like they might be just a wee bit tired of playing it) the crowd didn't seem to notice, and the response was equally enthusiastic for "Stubborn Love." However, in this writer's humble estimation, where The Lumineers really shine is in their lesser-known work. In addition to their brilliant cover of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," the band killed it on songs like "Slow It Down" and "Flowers In Your Hair," and one my personal highlights was their new, not-yet-officially-titled song, "Falling", a sweet, old-fashioned duet that brilliantly showcases cellist Neyla Pekarek's vocal talent. (You can find concert footage of this song online, but if you watch it, you'll probably wind up cursing the fact that it's not available as a single, yet. Don't say I didn't warn you.)
It would be easy for the more alternatively minded among us to dismiss bands like The Lumineers as merely fodder for television drama soundtracks and teenage Facebook status updates, but that overlooks the reason that The Lumineers became famous in the first place - they're amazing entertainers. Their style is simple, accessible, and honest. In an era where arena shows have been dominated by glitz, posturing, and overproduction, it's refreshing to a see some old-fashioned showmanship take center stage, once in a while.