We only get one Feb. 29 every four years, and I was lucky enough to spend a part of my extra 24 hours seeing The Lumineers perform live at Mohegan Sun. The concert had all-around great vibes, and the band brought a positivity to the stage that I have not seen in a while.
I’ve listened to The Lumineers for quite some time now. “Ho Hey,” released in 2012, mainstreamed alternative folk in a way I had never heard on the radio before. Their gentle sound, thought-provoking lyrics and vibrant instrumentals struck a chord with me, no pun intended.
The band started their world tour for their third album, “III” on Feb. 1 and came to Connecticut on Feb. 29. They must travel with an enormous crew, because their set was extravagant. It featured custom stage ramps, extending into the audience, as well as three enormous video screens (two enclosed by theater curtains for the beginning of the set). The band had multiple drum sets and pianos so that they could play the instruments wherever they were on stage, literally never missing a beat while performing.
The Lumineers were one of the first bands I have seen in a long time that sounded exactly the same live as they do on recordings. With all of their movement and energy, it was surprising that the sound was so cohesive. Speaking of energy, each and every member of the six-person group was fully engaged and enthusiastic during the duration of the performance. Each of them was just as involved as lead singer Wesley Schultz.
Perhaps most impressive was Lauren Jacobson, who crushed it on the violin all night. I’ve never seen a violin used in upbeat/rock music, but Jacobson proved there’s no other way to play the instrument. Most of the band members are multi-instrumentalists, including Jeremiah Fraites, who wowed on the drums and guitar and Stelth Ulvang, who was mostly on the keyboard and on accordion for part of the night. The band also incorporated bass, tambourine and more during their performance.
The show felt intimate, even in the big arena venue. While singing “Angela,” Schultz walked around the entire arena, even reaching some of the seats in the back. He intertwined personal anecdotes to introduce songs from the new album. When they sang “Gun Song,” he spoke about his father.
“2007 was a tough year for me. I just lost my father and about a week or two later I was running late for work and I was on a mission to find black socks (I was a waiter). I went to find my dad’s socks and I reached into his sock drawer and found a gun that I never knew he kept,” Schultz said. “It made me think, this person that I knew so well, I could never ask him why he never told me about that gun. There were so many things I could never ask him … But I know most of all he wanted me to be a good person … Thank you guys for giving us space to make honest music.”
They opened the set with “Sleep on the Floor,” a hit from their second album. The Lumineers sang a fairly even distribution of songs from each of their three albums. The audience was pleased to hear old fan favorites and newer singles alike. Schultz even sang a few fitting covers, including Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy.” For “Democracy,” they brought out Matt Quinn, lead singer of one of their opening acts, Mt. Joy, adding to that intimate, family feel of the concert.
“Gloria” was a particularly moving performance. During the song, the screens behind the stage projected the accompanying video, which was at times emotional and tragic. Each video displayed during the concert was a part of their 10-part video series released as a companion to the album. Each video tells a fragment of the same story about family, love and loss. Again, Schultz led into the song with a personal story.
“My wife and I have been trying to take care of this person in our family who’s an addict. I think I was a little bit afraid to tell these stories because I thought I was the only one, but there’s people in my life that are going through this, too,” Schultz said. “It’s easier to go through this together. I hope you are able to talk about these things with someone in your life like I was able to sing about it.”
“Cleopatra” was a particularly exciting song. The audience, drenched in purple light, was ecstatic as Schultz sustained a long high note mid-song. “Big Parade” was another energetic performance, with each band member using the full stage to their advantage. That was the final song before the encore, and as they wrapped up the performance, Schultz made sure to recognize each of his bandmates on stage. It showed his humility and gratitude.
The encore included favorites like “Donna,” “Ophelia,” “Salt and the Sea” and of course “Stubborn Love.” The Lumineers put on a great show, and I think they introduced a lot of audience members to the complexities and pleasures of alternative/rock folk music. The whole show felt intimate and inviting, a feeling that began with the opening acts. The very talented Diana Demuth and rootsy L.A. folk act Mt. Joy took the stage before The Lumineers did. The band should be proud of how far they’ve come in the past decade. The Lumineers proved that folk music can be fun, contemporary and worthy of selling out arenas. I wasn’t sure what to expect from such a chill band, but their concert was engaging and entertaining.
The Lumineers will be on “III: The World Tour” until August. If you aren’t already a fan, I’d start listening.
Julia Mancini is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.