The Lumineers at Red Rocks, 9/15/13
Eric Gruneisen The Lumineers on stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison.
THE LUMINEERS at RED ROCKS | 9/15/13
Unsurprisingly, Red Rocks erupted in cheers at the opening strains of "Ho Hey," the Lumineers breakthrough hit. Even though the song is kind of a delicate love song whose most prominent instruments are mandolin and drums, clearly the tune has struck a massive chord. This time last year, the act was playing small theaters, and these days it's risen to the level where it's can draw throngs of fans to Red Rocks on back-to-back nights -- in the rain.
The Lumineers have managed to do something a lot of bands doing the folk pop thing haven't done, and that is translate the excitement of the small stage directly to big stages. The music felt as intimate as ever at Red Rocks, and Wesley Schultz, who did most of the talking, hasn't really changed how he's always done things. He continues to operate with an admirable confidence.
Drawing primarily from its self-titled debut, the outfit performed its other biggest hit, "Stubborn Love," and Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was transformed into something more melancholy and finely textured. Early in the set, Schultz told us the band had participated in Denver Does Denver, where it covered Sawmill Joe's "Ain't Nobody's Problem," and then Sawmill Joe himself came up to lend his warm, raspy vocals to the song.
Halfway through the show most of the band left the stage, and Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites stood alone, with Fraites playing a kick drum and a tambourine, while Schultz sang lead and played guitar for a stripped down version of "Slow It Down." Then Fraites left and Neyla Pekarek came up to do a new song with Schultz, in which she did many, if not most, of the lead vocals for a tune that was featured Schultz and Pekarek singing call and response style about a playfully fractious relationship.
After the new song, Schultz told us that the band would come out and feel what we're feeling and perform a couple of songs in the rain. And so, as promised, the Lumineers came out well past the foot of the stage, fully exposed to the drizzle, and performed "Darlene" and "Elouise." Then there was an extended pause, and Schultz introduced the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which sat in for the next handful of songs beginning with "Submarines."
It would have been easy for an orchestra to dominate the sound, but the arrangements were so subtly tasteful, they added a richness of sound that enhanced the dramatic character of the music. Even the humorous "Submarines" seemed writ large, while "Dead Sea" was uplifting and majestic.
If there was an element of self-indulgence, it was of the variety that makes the experience greater for everyone involved, including the audience. And since this performance was being filmed, the Lumineers pulled out all the stops and made it a special moment despite the miserable weather, and the members invited some of their friends along for the ride on both nights and honored that music as well.