The Lumineers Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion April 24, 2013
Not even a year has passed since The Lumineers last brought their brand of folk-based pop to the streets of Houston, so a one-off headlining gig at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion found the trio here again sooner than usual. This time, though, they were toting a whole lot more experience, with a pair of Grammy nods under their collective belts, sold-out headlining gigs throughout the country, and reaching platinum status on their eponymous debut record.
While I can't really say there was much diversity in the swelling crowd Wednesday night in the Woodlands, one thing I can say is that they were all definitely there to hear that one song, from that TV show. You know, the one where they say ho and hey a lot.
Driving to the Woodlands to catch a show is usually reserved for bands that have already made it in the music industry: Tom Petty, the Beach Boys, Arcade Fire, Radiohead. This is definitely my first time seeing a band at the Pavilion that was playing to a three-quarter-filled house at Fitzgerald's a year ago, or coffeehouses a year before that. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
Save for a handful of new songs, the band -- front man Wesley Shultz, longtime collaborator Jeremiah Fraites, cellist/vocalist Neyla Pekarek and two other supporting musicians -- played every song from The Lumineers and a pair of covers in Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)." The show started with the rollicking "Submarines," which was almost inaudible at first as it was drowned out by the screams of the lucky couple dozen or so young ladies who had claimed the front row of the pit.
After a brief run-through of a new tune, and what seemed like only a snippet of "Flowers In Your Hair," the moment everyone pulled out their pocketbooks to be a part of finally arrived. A pretty standard version of "Ho Hey" made the crowd excited throughout, even though it seemed somewhat like the band was going through the motions. I've always wondered when the exact moment a band gets sick of playing their hit song. Like Metallica, for example. When was the last time they enjoyed performing "Enter Sandman?" I bet Lars never has.
A bit of a lull set over the crowd afterward, with the level of chatter increasing exponentially. During the Dylan cover, when the band seemed to be having the most fun they had all set, smart conversations abounded, such as "I really don't loooove this song, but I guess it's OK. I wish they'd play 'Ho Hey' again" or "Where are we going to go to take shots after this, bro?"
As you can imagine, I scooted down the row away from said scholars with the sad thought in my head that 92 percent of the audience would've never known they were playing a Dylan tune if they hadn't just said it. I also believe about 50 percent of those people don't even know who Bob Dylan is. That's the world we live in.
People came to the show to hear love songs, and they were not disappointed. "Dead Sea" came at a perfect time when people seemed to be getting restless, and with the lyrics "You told me I was like the Dead Sea/ You'll never sink when you are with me," couples started to cuddle like there was no tomorrow.
That's what's so great about Lumineers' music: it's incredibly simple, easy to listen to and full of love. At its core, it's still just run-of-the-mill pop music that is currently played alongside the likes of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, but what The Lumineers have that most other radio-friendly groups never will is the ability to write, play and finely tune their songs to their own standards, specifically by working with an independent label.
The second new song of the night, which sounded a lot like Shovels and Rope mixed with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters' The Jerk duet "Tonight You Belong to Me," was a nice little interlude that found Shultz and Pekarek taking center stage for a cute, Civil Wars-style sing-song. Joined halfway through by Fraites, the trio then jumped into the first real interactive song of the evening, "Charlie Boy."
It started off real slow, but soon the audience were enthralled by what was happening on stage as they clapped along with the band. The second single from the album, "Stubborn Love," which has been getting quite a bit of airplay lately, came next to the delight of many, as it was likely the only other Lumineers song they knew going into the show. As soon as it was over, the crowd weeded out the casual fans, and left those who actually loved the band to enjoy the set closer "Flapper Girl."
A ton of people headed out of the gates as Shultz came back to the stage with only an acoustic guitar. Those people that left early missed out on what wound up as about a third of the entire set. While Shultz strummed through the first few lines of "Morning Song," one by one the band made their way back onstage. Announcing that they felt like getting a bit closer to the audience, the Lumineers made their way to the soundboard area in the middle of the Pavilion and performed two new songs on a single mike.
I've seen a lot of bands bring their act into the crowd before, but never have I seen it in such a large venue. It almost took away from the songs, as most people in the crowd couldn't see what was going on. Still, though, it turned out to be a pretty smart way to liven up the two acoustic tunes rather than just play them straightforward onstage. Finally, they made their way back to the stage for a rousing version of "Big Parade" (my personal favorite) and previously mentioned Talking Heads cover "This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)" to close out the show.
The sustainability of The Lumineers over the course of the next couple of years is debatable. I can't really see them peaking any further than they have to date, and actually expect them to shrink back down a bit before their next gig in Houston. Next time we see them, it'll probably be in a much smaller venue such as Bayou Music Center or something along the same lines.
Still, though, you've got to give them the props they deserve for commanding such a large audience in such a short period of time. Not a lot of bands have done, can or ever will do that.
Personal Bias: I've worn down the grooves in my copy The Lumineers so far that it now pops at one certain point in the middle of "Big Parade."
The Crowd: Delta Gamma Kappa Zeta Epsilon and a whole bunch of couples.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I owe you, like, four blowjobs and a couple dinners for this"
Random Notebook Dump: Whatever you do, don't mention Mumford and Sons in the article.
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