After a lovely interview with cellist Neyla Pekarek, I was very excited to head down and see The Lumineers at Plymouth Pavilions last Tuesday. This was my second time seeing the band, the first being at Reading festival a few years ago. Plymouth in November doesn’t exactly have the same feel as a sunny day traipsing about in flower headbands and welly boots – but The Lumineers managed somehow to make it feel very much close to that.
If you are like a lot of people and have only heard ‘Ho Hey’ then I can describe their sound as folky-Americana melody and instruments with throaty indie vocals and a pinch of campfire sing a long. I would also like to point out that, no, they are not copying Mumford and Sons. For one, Wesley Schultz’s lyrics have a lot more poignancy than the emptiness of tracks like ‘Little Lion Man’. Which brings me on to the gig itself.
The support, Canadian artist Afie Jurvanen who goes by the name ‘Bahamas’ kicked the night off with some simple, but great, indie-folk. With soothing harmonies, two bass players and Juvanens gravelly vocals it was a great way to start the night. He also seemed to fancy himself a stand-up comedian with some jokes about going into the local Poundland and Sports Direct which got some appreciative whoops from the audience.
no, they are not copying Mumford and Sons
For starters, after the first few tracks the band asked the crowd to please not record or take photos on their phones so that everyone can properly enjoy the music. It made a huge difference watching the gig with my own eyes and not through peoples iPhone screens held up in front of me.
Bearing in mind the band played to Obama at the Whitehouse a few weeks ago and that their most recent album ‘Cleopatra’ reached number one on both sides of the Atlantic, I was happily surprised with how personal the gig was. For many of the tracks Wesley, in his oddly southern New Jerseyian accent, would tell the crowd a little tale behind the lyrics. A favourite was the reasoning behind ‘Gun Song’. I always thought it was about gun laws in the US. Whereas it is based on the day he found a gun he found in his recently passed Father’s draw, and realised he could never ask why he had a gun. Another nice touch was Wesley running through the crowd hi fiving as he went (the only time I was sad at the gig was when I missed out on this).
As a band that seem to never stop touring I wasn’t surprised to find that the gig was very well structured, with good rises and falls between slower acoustic tracks like the aptly named ‘Slow it Down’ in comparison with big sing-a-long tracks like ‘Ophelia’ and ‘Angela’. But neither style was any less delightful than the other. In fact, as someone who is usually in favour of those big room filling songs I found myself preferring the more stripped back ones.
the gig was very well structured, with good rises and falls
A definite favourite was playing ‘Darlene’ off-mic, a treat that I’m guessing is only reserved for the smaller venues. For this track they got a star struck member of the audience to hold a portable xylophone up for percussionist, Jeremiah Fraites to play one of the best live xylophone solos I have ever heard (though I have to say this is the first time I have seen one at a gig). Neyla Pekarek added her silky vocals into this track too, whilst the accompanying support musicians joined in with some gleeful stage stomping. It sounded nothing like the album track, and I am very thankful for it. I know I am singing the bands praises a lot, but they honestly didn’t put a stage stomping foot wrong. But, like I said, a band that tours as much as they have is going to be slick and have refined their set down to each note. They just somehow managed to also keep their live sound natural and personal.
In the interview with cellist Neyla Pekarek, she mentioned that playing Big Parade was her favourite track to play live because of its spectacle. So when it came on mid-set I was excited to see what the band did with it, as I can’t say its one of my favourites from their first album. Wesley, Neyla and Jeremiah, along with the three other accompanying musicians started the song at the front of the stage with the biggest smiles on their faces and those smiles just didn’t stop. By the confetti canons at the end everyone had arms in the air and was dancing. I know that sounds cheesy, but it was heartwarming to see a current indie band play without an air of pretence and irony.
All in all if you get the chance, which you probably will because they never seem to stop touring, I would definitely try and see them live. Even if you have only know the words to the chorus of Ho Hey, I think you will be surprised in the best way possible.
PS. A big shoutout to the lovely old lady who gave me an extra 50p because she saw I didn’t have enough change to get a bottle of water, you made my day!