When The Lumineers played Stage AE last summer -- opening for Old Crow Medicine Show -- it was a scrappy folk-rock band seemingly designed for the left of the dial.
On Tuesday night, the Denver band returned as a surprise Top 40 sensation, presiding over a rare meeting of WYEP and KISS listeners, all ready to "ho" and "hey" to their heart's content.
In the wake of Mumford & Sons breakout success, The Lumineers are riding a new wave of popularity for ragtag rustic folk bands most likely inspired by the Grammy-winning Arcade Fire.
The Lumineers are the kind of band that could hold court in your living room, and they captured that essence on a stage dressed with warm lamps and a vintage upright piano. Arriving to Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," The Lumineers appeared as a guitar-mandolin-cello trio doing "Charlie Boy," a Vietnam War lament played like a Civil War folk tune.
Wesley Schultz looks the part, with his chiseled jaw and fedora, and even sets his mic stand high so his head is always stylishly thrown back.
Joined by the rhythm section in place, they bounced back to World War II with "Submarines" and then Stelth Ulvang put the piano to good use on "I Ain't Nobody's Problem But My Own," a barrelhouse blues song written by their friend "Sawmill" Joe Cheves that showed The Lumineers to be a band of varied styles. The quintet also spiced the set with a version of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that sounded like it was refashioned for the "Desire" era.
While the band clearly treasures its Americana roots, there's also a heavy shade of David Gray to songs such as "Dead Sea" and "Flowers in Your Hair."
Just a few songs in, Mr. Schultz divided the room between ho's and hey's and then ventured into the mob, saying, "Please put away cameras and recording devices and just be in the moment with us now." It was just a little tease. With the singer nowhere near a mic, the crowd took the initiative to sweetly sing the verses of "Ho Hey," and then the band later returned with a full band treatment of the chain-gang-sounding love song.
"Stubborn Love," played with far more exuberance than the album version, inspired the same kind of choral excitement on the "woo-ooo-ooo's" and "aaah-aaah-aaah's" from the crowd, which he called the "loudest" of the tour (probably not the first time he's said that).
When you boast "I can write a song," as he does in "Ho Hey," you better be able to deliver, and with some depth. Perfect examples came in the encore, with the heartbreaking dirge of "Morning Song" bumped up against the slyly celebratory "Big Parade." Recent shows have been ending with Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)." This one went back a generation to "The Weight," a joyous tribute to The Band, with an assist from openers You Won't.
Safe to say, everyone left happy and impressed, the Top 40 kids coming away with a real taste of folk-rock, and the Triple A people seeing how much fun can be had with a hit. The Lumineers might not be the best of this wave, but they have the authenticity to thrive even after some of the fans move on to the next big thing.music
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.