The Lumineers / All photos: Kevin Kinder
There’s no such thing as a long song by The Lumineers. In three, maybe four minute bursts of pop music slathered with down-home folk, the Colorado band entertained a full house at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on Saturday night. And by full, I mean FULL – the ushers, as they do sometimes for the largest shows at the venue, condensed groups who had already claimed chunks of space on the lawn into tighter areas. There’s always an attempt to squeeze a few more bodies into the space.
I don’t think this concert sold out on the day it went on sale. I might be wrong about that, but I seem to remember a few tickets floating around. As the date neared, that certainly changed. Tickets were sold at a premium over face value. Social media posts begged for extra tickets. What happened in the space between?
Their songs happened. Or, more specifically, their new album, full of a new crop of potential hits, happened.
Next at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion
Who: Korn and Breaking Benjamin
When: 6 p.m. Oct. 15
Where: Arkansas Music Pavilion, Rogers
Cost: Starting at $29.50
Tickets: Call 479-443-5600 or visit arkansasmusicpavilion.com for information.
We’ve watched this kind of phenomenon before, even from The Lumineers. Two months after their debut album was released, the original trio performed at the Wakarusa festival (R.I.P., Wakarusa). Their set took place early in the afternoon on the small Backwoods Stage, capacity 500 or so. This was far from a coveted spot on the bill. If you count the people hanging around in hammocks barely paying attention to the proceedings onstage, there were maybe 200 people at the show. Maybe. I suspect there were fewer. I have some insight on this because I was one of those lucky few in attendance. The Lumineers mentioned that set last night during their headlining performance at the AMP. They said they were happy to be back in the area.
So what happened after that concert? About the same time, radio found their ear-worm of a future hit, “Ho Hey.” It turned into the surprise hit of the summer. The Lumineers suddenly found themselves a hot commodity.
Fast forward four years and the 10,000 or so capacity AMP couldn’t contain their fans. Likewise, the new song “Ophelia” gets played every hour on the hour, more or less, on a wide variety of radio format types.
Live, The Lumineers stayed mostly true to their studio recordings, making only subtle changes to the formula they’ve made work on two albums. There was a not-so-thinly veiled addition of the phrase “Vote for her” in the song “Big Parade,” a reference to the current national presidential election.
Lead singer Wesley Schultz also made reference to the small crowds that so very recently were the norm for the band. Midway through the set, the band left their post for an auxiliary stage built in the center of the venue. They played three songs there. It certainly was exciting for people in the lawn to get a little better look, but it wasn’t a major departure from what the band offered the rest of the evening. There’s a bit of a formula to a Lumineers song – fast strummed guitar, a flourish of tambourine and cello.
Schultz led the proceedings, whether with his guitar, charmingly gruff voice or the interludes where he described the background of a few of the songs. Hearing him open up about the songs added some heft into an otherwise light evening, which also featured the band doing an ultra-uptempo version of the already fast Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
They may have waited four years between albums, but they didn’t mess around on stage. The band crammed 20 songs into 90 minutes of stage time, assisted by backing musicians and the glow of large chandeliers.
They closed the night with the song “Stubborn Love” from their first album. Through being stubborn, The Lumineers have turned themselves into something sturdy, if not flashy, and big, even when they attempt to be small.
A note about the openers:
Rock band Borns, which carries the name of frontman Garrett Borns, performed in Northwest Arkansas previously as well. The band came early this year to the Springtime of Youth festival, operated by the University of Arkansas and its student-run Headliner Concerts Committee. Borns drew a sizable crowd itself and offered a cover-heavy set including takes on Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies).” He closed with his two biggest originals, “American Money” and raucous “Electric Love,” which was the first moment of rapture for an audience that looked to have many during the evening.
Rayland Baxter, from Nashville, had the honor of kicking things off. Baxter and his band sounded like the AM radio-ready tracks of Wilco filtered through the sensibilities of Baxter’s current town. In other words, I liked it. I’ll spend a little more time with his songs in the future.