The front-porch folk of the Lumineers shines bright
The fast-rising Colorado band delivers an endearing set at Terminal 5
By Danielle Cheesman
Special to MSN Music
When the lights dimmed at New York's Terminal 5 on Friday night (Feb. 1), it wasn't any song from the Lumineers' eponymous debut album that began to sound. Instead, it was the instantly recognizable banjo strum and drum thump from Fleetwood Mac's 1977 classic "The Chain," a clear nod from the Denver-based trio to not only one of their likely sources of inspiration, but to both bands' preferred style of music: well-harmonized, collaboratively-composed folk-rock you can't help but stomp, clap or sing along to that, from the looks of their sold-out show, the Lumineers seem to be well on their way to perfecting.
The peppy piano of "Submarines" kicked off the band's set, and lead vocalist-guitarist Wesley Schultz's body began to follow the orders of the song's drums (coming courtesy of bandmate Jeremiah Fraites' striking) as he marched toward the mic-stand in a way that's bound to become his trademark move. And fellow vocalist and cellist Neyla Pekarek stomped and spun around the stage, decorated with antique furniture, during the trio's cover of fellow Denver band Sawmill Joe's popular tune, “Ain’t Nobody’s Problem (But My Own)," helped along by a harmonica.
The album version of "Classy Girls" is backed by bar chatter, and the live version proved to be no different as its rendition, complete with fast-galloping finger-picking, roused the crowd. Fraites joined Schultz to sing on the short but sweet country-esque "Flowers in Your Hair" before the band suddenly requested: "No recording devices."
Confused, and even a bit put-off, the crowd begrudgingly (and silently) obliged, but the grunts were loud and clear when the trio stepped to the edge of the stage and began to suddenly shout the syllables to the song we had all come to hear (and record), their hit single "Ho Hey." But we all should've been ashamed of our initial immature reaction because the "off mic," almost entirely a cappella rendition, guided only by Schultz's guitar and the crowd's eager participation, became the never-to-be-forgotten highlight of the night. (It was followed by a cover of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and, again, Schultz's moves -- this time a traveling scuff of the heel -- were a delight.)
Though "Charlie Boy" started off with Pekarek's gentle strings, it ended with the men being brought almost literally to their knees as they played alongside each other with Fraites on the mandolin. Album centerpiece (and maybe even masterpiece) "Slow It Down" did just what its title promised, as Schultz was left on stage solo, his voice ranging from raspy to vulnerable on the stripped-down stirring ballad. (Never mind that the tune was originally about "an E-ZPass being stolen," as he had revealed earlier.)
Bing: More on the Lumineers
The trio then launched into an untitled new track (a cutesy his-and-her duet that I'll call "Fallen") with Pekarek and Schultz standing alongside each other to trade verses about an unconditional (albeit complicated) love. Schultz then howled on "Dead Sea" and, afterwards, the opening act Y La Bamba joined the band for "Stubborn Love," bringing the total number of artists on stage to a dozen, making for an unforgettable jam session as each was equipped with an instrument, including maracas, castanets and a tambourine. Fraites even played a xylophone on the closer, "Flapper Girl."
On the encore, Schultz was again left alone to sing "Morning Song" under a lone spotlight, but the rest of the band returned for "Big Parade," during which they cheerily encouraged call-and-response from the crowd, commanded by a quick lift of the neck of Schultz's guitar. They finished with a cover of the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place," and though the lyrics to the homesick tune seemed to resonate with each and every concertgoer somehow, it was the band's conscious effort to then quietly hug and sincerely congratulate one another, without haste or shame while still under the pressure of the crowd's pleading stares, that was most endearing. It's that humility fans can only hope goes unaffected by industry politics. The Lumineers are just happy to be here and we're happy to have 'em.
* Photos by Daneille Cheesman