The Lumineers at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Boston, MA- 9/8
The Lumineers broke onto the music scene in 2012, part of the neo-folk and Americana wave that brought us Mumford and Sons, The Head and the Heart and a host of other groups who delivered big, foot-stomping acoustic anthems that seemed to dominate the airwaves for a spell in the early 2010s. And while The Lumineers self-titled debut received generally positive reviews, its massive commercial success elicited condescension from some quarters, where both the band and the album were derided as little too contrived or inauthentic – a criticism that did and still does strike me as unfair.
Whether as a conscious counterpoint to the first album or simply for their own artistic reasons, the band’s follow-up record, Cleopatra, which came out earlier this year, is a decidedly more mellow affair. The tracks are more intimate, with no obvious anthems or crowd-pleasers. Some fans may rue the absence of any really “big” songs, but the new album has at least a half a dozen tracks that stand up well alongside The Lumineers, and signals a growing maturity of songwriting partners Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites.
On the second of two nights at Boston’s open-air Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, The Lumineers interspersed nine songs from Cleopatra into a 20-song set list. They opened the show with the first two tracks from the new disc, “Sleep on the Floor” and “Ophelia,” before returning to the first album for “Flowers In Your Hair” and – getting it out of the way early – “Ho Hey.” During the latter song – the double-platinum hit that, for better or worse, defined the band’s debut in many people’s eyes – Schultz invited concert-goers to take out their phones and click away…in exchange for putting phones away for the rest of the night, a request most of the well-behaved crowd seemed to honor.
Schultz, Fraites and cellist Neyla Pekarek are joined on this tour with three other musicians providing help on bass, guitar and piano. Although he was occasionally joined by his band mates at the front of the stage, Schultz had the spotlight to himself for much of the show, making him seem more the front man than was the case in past tours.
The blend of songs from Cleopatra and The Lumineers was fairly seamless, with the title track from the new album segueing into “Dead Sea” and “Charlie Boy” from the first album, and, later, new tracks “Gun Song” and “Angela” leading into The Lumineers’ “Big Parade.” The band detoured to the center of the crowd for a two-song mini-set of “Where the Skies Are Blue” and “Classy Girls,” and detoured from their own catalog for a cover of Dylan’s classic “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
They closed out a lengthy four-song encore with “Stubborn Love,” the track from The Lumineers that is probably closer to the band’s heart and soul than the peppier “Ho Hey.” The U.S. leg of the Cleopatra World Tour runs through early October, after which the band decamps for Europe for two months.