Live Review: The Lumineers + Stelth Ulvang – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (28.01.14)

They’re currently skyrocketing in popularity, and those who weren’t over at the QANTAS Credit Union Arena (formerly Sydney Entertainment Centre) checking out Arcade Fire were those who snapped up tickets to a sold out show at the Enmore Theatre to see The Lumineers.

After a delay being let into the venue, and then another delay with the support act, Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers comes out onstage to announce that scheduled performer D.D. Dumbo due to technical difficulties would not play for us. Instead we would be graced by fellow Lumineer Stelth Ulvang who is a solo artist in his own right. For a very short-notice stint filling in, Ulvang managed to literally win over the entire room after playing for about half an hour.

Musically he’s not too far a stretch from the band he performs in, the main point of difference is that his sound is a little more of a jazz-folk fusion rather than leaning too heavily into the folk field. His songs are intricately detailed lyrics and have a delicate feel to them but his delivery is empowered and assured. His fellow Lumineers even popped out onstage briefly to assist him with a couple of his songs which got the crowd more excited. Even his awkward attempt at bantering about meat pies and being in Australia and how surreal it was just endeared him to the crowd even more. I suspect we will be hearing more from this young gent soon.

After about a half hour changeover The Lumineers return to a rapturous crowd already animated from a stellar support slot and of course seeing the band members onstage together in now their proper form. “Submarines” kicks things off, it’s jovial and fun with flashing houselights and thumping drums. They then perform a cover by an unknown group called Sawmill Jones of a song called “Ain’t Nobody’s Problem” and it really starts to showcase the band’s bluegrass sound. Early in the set (4th song in) enormous radio hit “Ho Hey” gets a spin and the phones begin to come out.

Less than 30 seconds into the song though frontman Schultz requests the audience to put their phones away and “be present with us” and it’s nice to see that everybody complies. I’ve never understood the need to record a ridiculously popular song using your phone with its crappy speakers and camera, it will never recapture the moment perfectly so you may as well live in it and enjoy it.

Our man from before Ulvang leads the group in on “Dead Sea” with a quick piano solo jam session which soon explodes into a clobbering of drums and deep resonating cello. Mid way through the main part of the set Schultz and cellist Neyla Pekarek perform a beautiful little duet with just their voices and Schultz’s guitar. To highlight their ability to enthrall the room they even go so far as to completely ditch the amps and microphones and perform “Darlene” and “Classy Girls” back to back completely acoustically with the crowd hanging on every word they sing and every note they strum and only joining in when coaxed.

And with any good hipster flavour band they also have a song on a popular movie franchise soundtrack, this time The Hunger Games and the song titled “Gale’s Song” is probably the most sombre of all that they play in the course of the night. They wrap up the main part of the set with “Big Parade” which of course has loads of hand clapping and gets the crowd singing along with all the words. After the encore we’re given three more tracks to revel in but it’s the evening’s closer “Stubborn Love” that manages to encourage an entire sold out Enmore room to foot stomp, shout and cheer.

The Lumineers manage to blend their folk with country, bluegrass and roots without it sounding too much of any one in particular. For three quarters of the evening the crowd participation was high with the clapping along or foot stomping to songs. Our soundman for the evening did a spectacular job of ensuring all our instrumentalists on stage could be heard clearly without too much whitewash. For a band with only one album out they also managed to fill out a sold hour and a half set with material, the covers they did play sounding effortlessly like part of their own catalogue. It’s also refreshing to see a bunch of musicians who honestly look like they’re having a ball onstage and not taking things too seriously but enjoying the performance and feedback from the crowd.

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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.

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