Saturday night brought an exceedingly popular new band to a sold-out crowd at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers. I use the term "new" somewhat loosely -- The Lumineers actually have roots back to the early 2000s when Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion) started writing and performing songs together. It's more their fame and the ubiquity of their singles that are relatively new.
The band as it is today -- with cello player Neyla Pekarek and the trio's Americana folk/pop sound that has made them famous -- emerged around 2009. Their first single "Ho Hey" started popping up here and there in late 2011, and then all of a sudden it -- and the band -- were everywhere.
"It wasn't that long ago we were playing in people's living rooms and at house shows, so this is pretty incredible for us," Schultz said to the screaming crowd of nearly 10,000 early in the set.
The Lumineers gave an honest, effervescent and vulnerable (mostly Schultz) performance at the AMP as they evenly split their hour-and-a-half performance between songs from their 2012 self-titled debut and their much anticipated sophomore effort "Cleopatra," released in April. They took the stage at 9:15 p.m. with "Sleep on the Floor" followed by "Ophelia" -- the first single from their latest album -- and "Flowers in Your Hair."
Before starting "Ho Hey," Schultz made a deal with the audience: "If you want to take videos and pictures, do it during this song. But can we make an agreement that then we'll all put away our phones?"
And surprisingly, most of the audience complied. Looking out over the sea of heads facing the stage -- with what seemed to be colorfully lit organ piping hanging in a semicircle behind the musicians -- there were almost no phones out. There seemed to be an earnest connection between the six musicians (the trio were joined for some songs by a piano player, bass player and second percussionist) and the 10,000 audience members echoing every lyric back to them.
The phones remained mostly put away except during the middle of the set when the band traversed to the smaller stage at the edge of the lawn, as more than a few groups have come to do when performing at the AMP. Those in the lawn went a little wild, running down to the walkways to get a closer photo. A few songs later, after wrapping "Submarines," Schultz said to the crowd in his charming and easy-going way, "I've never done it like that before, I hope you liked it." Feeling they had witnessed something special, the fans let him feel the love.
Not receiving quite as much love were the two opening acts for the night. Some concerts bring openers big enough for audience members to attend just to hear them. Not so much the case with Nashville artist Rayland Baxter and pop act BØRNS. People in the pit close to the stage seemed to be in to the music, but the rest of the audience mostly gave respectful and appreciative cheers after each number. I don't think the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd was a matter of not enjoying the music, though. In fact, several people around me were impressed with both bands.
As the first act of the night, I suspect Baxter and his brand of laid back alternative country made it easy for the audience to be laid back, too, as the soft glow of the first October sunset fell over the perfect fall evening. Knowing he was coming in to a situation where most people hadn't heard him before -- as he shared in a previous interview with What's Up! -- BØRNS was aiming to make an impression when he took the stage. The bright and lively lighting of his set fit his "unapologetic big pop," as Schultz calls it, but for me, the energy was a little lacking. The high pitch of BØRNS' voice -- always easily heard in his recordings -- was lost a few times to the music and the bass. His biggest songs, "American Money" and "Electric Love," riled a few more audience members to their feet and sent him out with a bang. Again, those around me were impressed with the pop artist's performance, so perhaps I came in with expectations too high.
As for expectations for the headliner, no one I saw was the least bit disappointed. A quick look at The Lumineers' website will reveal the inspiration behind several of the songs on their new album. But Schultz went even deeper on Saturday night, sharing stories of group struggle, the specific meanings of a few of the lyrics and intimate heartache over the loss of his father and dealing with that in his music. Their reputation as storytellers held up, and added a layer of depth to music most in the audience already loved.
"That was such a sense of intimacy for such a large audience," a woman who had been watching from the lawn commented when the show ended.
You can read the preview coverage with interviews with Schultz and BØRNS here.
NAN What's Up on 10/07/2016
Print Headline: Review: The Lumineers at the Walmart AMP