The Lumineers at Bluebird Theater, 5/11/12
The show kicked off with an endearingly humble performance by Sawmill Joe. He was up there with just a cellist. While the acoustic guitar he played might have been a little thin in such a setting, the cello filled out the lower end and gave the music much needed textures and sonic depth. Joe had the persona of some guy who just came in out of the coal mines or out of a factory or off of a ranch or out a sawmill even, and he sang the songs he had going through his head while engaging in repetitive, mindless work just to keep his imagination going and his spirit fed. This came across in his songs.
Tom Murphy Sawmill Joe at The Bluebird Theater
Part-blues, part-country and part-folk, and delivered with a husky voice that, if an affectation, absolutely did not sound like one.
The Outfit performed in the middle slot with its usual proclivity for impassioned, dynamic power pop. Eric Johnston seemed to have an unending ability to summon a wave of emotion that nearly caused his voice to distort perfectly in counterpoint to his usual croon, not unlike David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen. Some of the eight-song set came from the band's 2011 album, Broken West Wishbone Test.
Tom Murphy The Outfit at The Bluebird Theater
The rhythm section for this incarnation of the band was fantastic and Mike King's always strong but versatile bass lines gave the music even more of a lift than it had before. At the end, Johnston said they were bringing in Dr. Music, the best keyboard player in town. He also joked about how maybe people could dance to the song and "Break in some of that denim. Lots of denim." True to his word, the final song was worthy of a bit of movement that the audience obliged.
Bias: Living in Denver most of my life, I've become a bit numb to the charms of any form of Americana or "old-timey" music. But the native charm and strong songwriting of The Lumineers is able to get past that thin barrier to full appreciation.
Random Detail: Ran into Tyler Campo of Port Au Prince outside getting away from the roiling heat of the venue for a moment.
By the Way: The debut self-titled album from the Lumineers is a good representation of a hint of what you're in for at the live show.
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