An incendiary moment, most rare; there’s nothing quite like seeing a band great enough to sell-out one of the most stunning, finest live music venues in London, yet not so successful, so well-known, that they take it for granted.
Monday night, November 12th, we didn’t just see a band perform their hit single “Ho Hey” (the song that landed them a record deal and got them where they are today) as well as the songs from their debut album. What we witnessed, above all else, was a band both celebrating their newfound success (some seven years in the making) but also adamant on impressing. From the get-go they ensured this was one of the best gigs of 2012, and if you weren’t a complete Lumineers fan before coming tonight, you sure as hell went home one.
American folk rock trio The Lumineers, playing as a five-piece in London’s decadent Koko theatre, kicked off the night with the song “Submarines”, the thumping piano line and unison calls and yelps from the band in the chorus setting a rousing tone from the onset.
“Make some noise,” chimed an overwhelmingly jubilant yet humble Jeremiah Fraites (percussion, mandolin and vocals), “This is the biggest sold out gig we’ve ever played!”
The band then bucked into sing-a-long song “I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem (But My Own)”, followed by the clap-a-long and call-and-response song “Big Parade”, and I’ll be damned, looking around the 1,000 capacity two-tiered theatre (with its crimson walls and carpet, art deco chandeliers and ornate balconies) there was not a single person not dancing, clapping, and chanting along: “And oh my my / Oh hey hey”.
Many bands save this level of enthusiasm and ‘crowd participation’ for their encore, but not The Lumineers; they know how to work a crowd, and set a room alight, instantly.
With only two official singles released from their album, it’s an ambitious (or foolish) band that drops their one hit trump song (“Ho Hey”) in the middle of their set – rather than reserving it for the final encore, as is the norm and safe structure most bands follow. But much to the band’s credit, it turned out they had something rather spectacular in store.
Past the halfway point of the performance, the two additional members that night (on keys and bass) stepped off-stage as the three core members Wesley Schultz (vocals, guitar), Fraites and Neyla Pekarek (cello, vocals) played the sombre “Charlie Boy”. Schultz took it down another notch, playing “Slow It Down” solo, followed by he and Pekarek playing a new, as-yet-untitled love song where the two shared vocals, to much applause. (The song was slightly reminiscent of Edward Sharp & The Magnetic Zeros’ “Home”, if only for the boy-girl vocals and romantic theme).
The Lumineers finished their set having played their hit singles; had the crowd enraptured, singing, clapping and dancing to their songs; and also pulling at heartstrings with their quieter, melancholy and romantic songs. What more could you ask for?
As an encore and with the lights still down low, band leader Schultz made his way through the packed-out crowd and, guitar in hand, he climbed atop the sound desk, which was located on the middle tier in the centre of the theatre. “Put your recording devices away,” he sighed to the crowd, “You’re probably annoying your neighbour and let’s just be here, in this moment.” The crowd hushed and he played an unplugged acoustic song to his now 360° audience on the ground floor below, the top balcony above and to the crowd surrounding him on the middle balcony.
The Lumineers’ self-titled debut, with its range of simple, catchy and spirited folk-rock songs, may not necessarily be one of the strongest releases of 2012. But ladies and gentlemen, this performance – with its electric energy, emphasis on the ephemeral and the band working so hard to put on a show to remember – was really quite extraordinary.
The Lumineers play London’s 02 Sheperd’s Bush Empire on February 13. Their self-titled debut album is out now.