Led by the Lumineers, a Diverse Group of Acts Brought a Rootsy Vibe to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Last Night

Concert Review

click to enlarge Led by the Lumineers, a Diverse Group of Acts Brought a Rootsy Vibe to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Last Night
Brian Lumley
Americana outfit the Lumineers made a return to Cleveland last night, headlining a great evening of diverse music at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

You can see a slideshow of photos here.

As rock has given way to dozens of sub-genres, the Americana label has come to describe, very aptly by the way, bands such as the Lumineers, Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers.

Drawing on such diverse influences as Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Sr. and early Springsteen in a mishmash of simplistic yet simply-produced tunes, the Lumineers harken back to the analog era. The result has been a successful throwback type of band that has been very successful over the last decade in bringing an “older” sound to the Spotify generation. The band includes multiple mandolins, the likes of which showcased the talents of percussionist and founding member Jeremiah Fraites, longtime touring backup Stelth Ulvang and Brandon Miller.

Bursting onto the scene around the same time as their contemporaries the Avett Brothers, the Lumineers energized the hip-hop and contemporary urban-dominated airwaves, injecting a breath of traditional Americana fresh air into a crowded but homogenous landscape.

Frontman Wesley Schultz, whose swing-for-the-fences baritone verges on collpapsing, somehow reined it in for a pleasant timbre. He took us through the majority of the band’s oeuvre, playing a balanced combo from the outfit’s ten-year output. Leaning a little more on their last effort, the 2019 concept album III, the band interspersed a half dozen tunes from Cleopatra, its 2016 sophomore effort, into the mix.

Surprisingly, their biggest hit to date (and top five chart placer), “Ho Hey” was a mid-set highlight, offered as an abbreviated singalong. Most of their tunes fell into the three-minute or less category, briskly escorting the evening by rather quickly, as there was very little banter between the band and the audience, save for when Schultz relayed a story of when the group played Cleveland for the first time in 2012.

The four-song encore showcased a tune from each of the band's three albums, while the second-to-last tune, “April/Salt and the Sea,” seemed out of place due to the episodic and cinematic nature of the album itself, a story of a family dealing with addiction. “Gloria,” for reference, came off as one of the most upbeat, toe-tapping songs about alcoholism you’ll ever hear.

It was cold, gray, and overcast night, but for a few hours The Lumineers brought their brand of music and a little cheer to the RMFH; while they may not be your grandparents’ type of middle-class Americana, they’ve shown that once was will be again.

And that, perhaps, is the best takeaway from the evening. The Lumineers are comfort food, wrapped in a rural-sounding beat and a pair of pianos that would better suit a Depression-era juke joint.

Kenyan-born JS Ondara, a Bob Dylan acolyte, opened the evening with a spirited set, propping up his 2019 releases Tales of America, and his sophomore effort, Tales of America: The Second Coming, released last September. This is a guy to keep your indie-loving eyes squarely upon. Ondara moved to Minnesota in 2013 just because Dylan, his idol, was raised there. Perhaps he’s hoping that some of Dylan’s musical mojo will rub off on him.

Philadelphia-bred indie rock quintet Mt. Joy brought their L.A.-infused sound to the stage as the night’s second act, warming up the crowd with their hits “Cardinal,” “Sheep” and “Silver Lining.”

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