The Lumineers

support Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
author HES date 10/12/13 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

I unfortunately find myself alone tonight at my familiar Store Vega, being without a photographer because of a minor disagreement over photo terms and on a foggy Tuesday afternoon in my so-very-cloudy home country I would love for The Lumineers to warm and brighten my night tonight. Before it's time for the folk rock comets however, there is the matter of their support:

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Besides excelling in having a horribly long name, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down also excel within the field of having a female lead singer - a trend in folk/alternative/indie I welcome as a new addition to an otherwise male dominated rock business. The results may differ but from what I have listened to from home, this actually seems like a successful remedy. Thao Nguyen is the front person/vocalist/guitarist of the ensemble and guessing wildly, also the “Thao” in the band’s name. Her voice varies from artistically lethargic to playful in a garage’ish setting. Thao is wearing bright purple tonight and the same kind of spunk is characterizing the music. The band’s sound is very analogue and back to basics.

The musical setting is almost Jefferson Airplane marries Yeah Yeah Yeahs but with an artsy undertone from the underground of San Francisco. Thao is in complete control during the entire set and so is the rest of the band. It proves extremely useful during parts of artsy silence, changes in tempi and rhythms; otherwise the gimmicks would fall completely through on stage. Thao’s guitar is almost as big as herself as she prances around stage like a well-trained circus pony and even though there’s something charming about both Thao, the music and her (very talented) band there’s just this layer of control between them and the audience tonight and it creates a disconnect. The audience is clearly mesmerized, but whether it’s by Thao’s short skirt and provocative moaning or an actual enchantment, I sincerely question.

The Lumineers

Founded in December 2011, The Lumineers have had a shorter rise to fame than many bands. Their single “Ho Hey” stroke a chord from New York to the country scene of TV show “Hart of Dixie” and in August 2013 they re-released their self-titled album and have been touring pretty much all year. I am curious to see if their stamina and their love of their craft is still intact after the year the band has had. The show is almost sold out but I am happy I got to see them at the still relatively intimate setting of Store Vega - a magical land where the sound is (almost) always good.

Whether it’s for the sake of the smaller venue or a wish to change things up a bit, I’ll never know, but the band chooses to play a completely different setlist than I could find from prior shows. I’m quite happy for this unexpected change as it seems to put the band a bit more on edge and it gives the show more nerve. The first song “Flowers In Your Hair” is performed a bit more theatrically than I expected from a folk/country band like Lumineers with a bassy, abstract intro in complete darkness. But already at the second song the whole thing becomes more of the barn party I expected to the song of “Sawmill Joe” and an absolute favourite of mine “Ain’t Nobody’s Problem” with a bit of clog dancing by frontman Wesley Keith Schultz.

There are many ways of constructing a show and a big question is always where to place the hit single in the mix on the setlist. Quite unceremoniously the band fires their biggest rocket already by the third placeholder and “Ho Hey” starts with an explosion of lights. As the crowd recognizes the intro, wild ecstasy spreads through-out. Schultz stops halfway through the song and kindly asks everyone to put their phones down and “just be here with us”. This is greatly appreciated as I’ve noticed how the age of the smartphone has made many zombie-documentarists during shows. In my opinion bands should do this more often, as they speak with way more authority than a stingy reviewer type frowning at you (that would be me) and it makes people start caring about the music again rather than likes on facebook for a badly recorded video.

Schultz is leading the show tonight. It’s funny - because my impression of the band pre-show was more of a collective, rather than the singer-songwriter + band impression I am getting tonight. He is doing a great job of entertaining with dancing, talking, singing and constantly losing his hat off his head as he gets too active during bits of songs. And surely we are entertained, but the constant gimmicks take their toll on the sincerity of the show. Jeremiah Caleb Fraites is acting as tonight’s Jack of all trades and class clown as he manages to play everything from glockenspiel to a mini-piano carried by cellist/vocalist Neyla Pekarek. It’s entertaining, but again - the musical aspect and sincerity takes a bit of a backseat in the holy name of entertainment. However, when these two guys are left to perform “Slow It Down” alone together on stage we get closer to seeing the true face of The Lumineers.

For “Stubborn Love” Schultz utilizes the balcony in Store Vega for a bit of balcony vs. floor sing-a-long on the catchy refrain “keep your head up - keep your love”. Other high points are an acoustic version of “Classy Girls” and “Charlie Boy”. The set ends with “Flapper Girl” and “Submarine” to be followed by an encore in the form of “Morning Song”, the beautiful “Gale Song” and “Big Parade”, and although the band did an excellent job of entertaining - I am left with a feeling of not really being “let in” to the world of The Lumineers. Within other genres I probably wouldn’t worry about this as much - but as folk/country becomes more mainstream, I think it’s important for us to remember how this kind of music is essentially driven by storytelling. Excellent storytelling relies greatly on the narrator and I’m missing a bit of that here. The band plays a decent cover of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by the original folk-rocker Bob Dylan, who is known for being particularly skilled in using himself as guarantor of sincerity. I’d prefer more of that and less of the juggling tambourines, mini-pianos and choreographed sing-a-longs.

7

Setlist:

  • Flowers in your hair
  • Ain’t Nobody’s Problem
  • Ho Hey
  • Subterranean Homesick Blues
  • Dead Sea
  • Darlene (Accoustic)
  • Classy Girls (Accoustic)
  • Slow It Down (Wesley Keith Schultz and Jeremiah Caleb Fraites)
  • New Song (duet by Neyla Pekarek and Wesley Keith Schultz)
  • Charlie Boy
  • Stubborn Love
  • Flapper Girl
  • Submarine

Encore

  • Morning Song
  • Gale Song
  • Big Parade

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