The Lumineers, Koko, London
Thursday 15 November 2012
It is four songs in before the Lumineers lead vocalist Wesley Schultz instructs fans to abandon their mobile phones and “be with the music.”
Later Jeramiah Fraites reiterates the sentiment. “Doesn’t make you a bad person if you don’t. Just doesn’t make you a good one.” It could be a case of biting the hand that champions you, for the band has been a major beneficiary of the device, from YouTube hits to Shazamed adverts, via Spotify share lists. Naturally the advice is neglected as the crowd want to bottle a piece of the electric vibe The Lumineers have created and keep it forever.
The band start strongly with the rousing "Submarine". Its themes of disbelief given momentum by the audience participation on “I ain’t nobody’s problem” and "Big parade", where Fraites acknowledges the “call and response” he engineers. On breakthrough song “Ho Hey” the room is evenly divided into singing “Ho’s” and “Hey’s.” It is to The Lumineers’ credit that they can elicit such foot-stomping, hand-clapping frivolity but controlling the gathering as if by remote control occasionally misfires. The ensuing hyperactivity drowns out more intimate songs such as "Charlie Boy" where Neyla Pekarek’s cello finally has a moment to breath.
Critics have sneered at The Lumineers’ predilection for rustic clothing, as well as the anachronistic thigh-slapping rural Americana that emanates from their instruments. Yes, there are times the band could have been mid-way through a set in Dust Bowl-era America, when a massive twister swirled by and transported them to tonight’s gig.
Yes the band are treading in the canyon-sized footprints left by behemoths such as the Arcade Fire and lesser size 12’s of Mumford & Sons. Maybe they are contrived, but in an industry where a bandwagon is the only mode of transport into venues such as tonight’s sold-out Koko, it becomes palatable. In fairness, the Lumineers do possess one vital commodity, notably absent from many of their more aloof contemporaries: charm.
The encore showcases what the crowd can expect in future with a stirring rendition of the strongest song on the album, "Morning song" and an acoustic Darlene with Schultz audaciously climbing aloft the front of house and playing to the floor. It is a moment where only the truly dour could not muster a smile and only the very resolute could resist snapping a quick picture on their phone.
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