By Jennifer Lynn
Lunchtime: you’re craving a sandwich. Do you stop to ponder whether you’d prefer multigrain or wholegrain bread? No, because everyone knows it’s all about the filling. Sandwiched between upcoming Leeds outfit Fossil Collective, and headline act The Civil Wars at Glasgow’s O2 Academy tonight, were the utterly delectable Lumineers. Appearing on stage to the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, the band’s signature tambourines soon kicked in as frontman Wesley Schultz announced, “Hey, we’re The Lumineers and we’re from Denver, Colorado, nice to meet you.”
Joined by drummer Jeremiah Fraites and cellist Neyla Pekarek, as well as touring members Ben Wahamaki (bass) and Stelth Ulvang (keys), lead singer and guitarist Wesley launched into Submarines, a catchy, chant-like tune from The Lumineers’ self-titled debut album. Sounding more powerful live than they do in recordings, thanks in part to those extra members, the band sprung to life for their next track, a cover of Sawmill Joe’s I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem. Neyla ditched her cello in favour of joint vocal duties and some pixie-like dance moves, before leading a call and response with the crowd for Big Parade.
From their lyrical knowledge to the red hot reception they gave The Lumineers, I suspect more than a few audience members had come solely to see the support act, while several had been drawn in purely by “that song from the E.ON Energy advert”. Thankfully they didn’t have to wait to long for the comfortingly familiar track, and were even allowed to sing backing vocals, after being split into a “hey side” and a “ho side”. And, before you ask, I was on the former.
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It was a brave move from the folk-rock band to play their best known song in the middle of their set, rather than saving it for last, but Wesley had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand- not least because the band’s next offering was called Scotland, a song he said, “we wrote a long time ago when we never thought we’d get to come here.” The haunting track slowed things down and really showcased the versatility in Schultz’ vocal, its gravelly quality taking on a colder tone, as he told the tale of failure and isolation. Pekarek’s silky smooth cello playing leant itself particularly well here, adding real depth to the atmospheric track. Why it’s called Scotland though I’m not sure- maybe because of the line “let’s drink to your health”? It certainly seems like a Scottish thing to do!
Dead Sea showed off another side of Schultz’ vocal with an impressive falsetto towards the end, while The Lumineers’ reverted back to three members for Charlie Boy, creating a more delicate sound. Ending on Stubborn Love, the song released as the band’s second single in the US, every person in the house was on their feet singing along to the “keep your head up” refrain as Fraites came out from behind his drum kit for some glockenspiel action.
With The Lumineers’ taking up residence at the merch stand to chat to their new fans, headline act The Civil Wars took to the stage. Duo Joy Williams and John Paul White were greeted by deafening cheers as they began their acoustic set with Tip Of My Tongue, followed by Forget Me Not. Despite their two Grammy wins earlier this year, for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Folk Album, I’m sorry to say I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. By the third track, the slightly more upbeat From This Valley, I felt like I had been transported into an episode of now-defunct American drama One Tree Hill and that Haley James Scott was on the stage. And not in a good way.
Despite the vocal and instrumental talent being there, The Civil Wars were just too much of the same for my liking- their track Same Old, Same Old sums it up without me having to say a thing, yet ironically was the song I found least monotonous. While their army of fans were left hanging on their every word, I bowed out quietly, feeling somewhat indifferent towards the Nashville band. Though I applaud their no-gimmicks approach to the live performance, I just wasn’t interested enough in the stories they were telling to be captivated solely by the songs, and was left feeling deflated after the roaring high of The Lumineers.
Check out our interview with The Lumineers in this month’s issue of Scotcampus