Getting a theater full of L.A. hipsters to turn off Instagram, and holster their cell phones for more than 30 seconds seems like an impossible feat- especially at the concert of a popular alternative band that people are just itching to live tweet sepia toned pictures of. Amazingly, however, The Lumineers were able to get the horn-rimmed glasses-wearing crowd to do just that at their concert at the Fonda Theatre on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. As a testament to the band’s earthy folk persona, throughout the show frontman Wesley Schultz urged the audience to put away their cell phones and “be here right now.” Astonishingly, instead of ignoring the suggestion or falling victim to an existential crisis, the technology-dependant masses embraced the idea of actually experiencing the music rather than watching a grainy version of it through their iPhones. Though it might seem like a simple thing, getting everyone to unplug really did have a transformative impact on the overall mood of the show.
Uninhibited by the demanding buzz of the outside world, The Lumineers succeeded in taking listeners back to a simpler time. Fully-clad in their signature style of old-school suspenders and floppy hats, the band looked like they stepped onto the stage right off of their album cover, or off a train platform from 1950. Dressing just as fans hoped they would, The Lumineers performed even better. For a group that started off with such sad origins, coming together over the death of a friend, they played with a palpable joy that effortlessly spilled over to the crowd. What’s more impressive is that they sounded great the entire time. With clear, commanding vocals from both Schultz and new crowd favorite, cellist Neyla Pekarek, people couldn’t help but be enchanted by the rustic campfire atmosphere The Lumineers set out to create. With acoustic guitars, feet stomping, and tambourines jingling, the only thing missing was actual trees covered in moss, a full moon and a s’more or two. True to the communal vibe they were striving for, they asked the audience to participate in some good old-fashioned call-and-repeat through the show, to which everyone was more than happy to oblige, eagerly clapping their hands and swaying along to the beat for songs like, “Dead Sea,” “Classy Girls,” “Submarines,” and their romantic breakout single, “Hey Ho” (currently #1 on Billboard’s Rock and Alternative charts).
As they were recording the concert for a live record, they did every song on their self-titled debut album (which has sold over 500,000 copies so far) and gave people a taste of their new stuff with a still unnamed track that featured the group’s first duet between Pekarek and Schultz. The song was received with thundering cheers from a crowd that whistled and shouted with surprise when they heard the cellist’s sweet unpretentious warble for the first time.
There was no rigidity at all to this show, with a drummer who refused to sit while he banged on his set, a cellist that hopped around on stage clapping when she wasn’t singing or shredding her instrument, and other musicians that came and went for different songs to play a riff on a guitar, bang out a few notes on a piano or just add their foot stomping and tambourine slapping to the background. Though they did make the crowd go through the perfunctory motions of applauding for a pre-scripted encore, it was well worth it to see them do “Darlene.” Definitely one of the highlights, for that tune the members of the group split off into two and ducked into the tiny side stages at the theater, xylophone in hand, to sing without mics to each other over the delighted bobbing heads of the audience.
Last night I had the chance to review either Justin Bieber or the The Lumineers. Favoring raw emotional lyrical depth over the popcorn hip-hop stylings of a top 40 dominator, I made the easy choice to see The Lumineers. At the first strum of a guitar I knew I had made the right decision. Steeped in true Mid-Western charm, with a genuine purity to their twangy sound, The Lumineer’s simple back-to-the-roots folk rock show may have been the best concert I’ve seen all summer. Sounding even better and more in their element on stage than in a studio, this group’s animated authentic performance is a must see, no matter who else is playing that night.
By: Darianne Dobbie