Photos by Renee Doiron
In 1933, four years into The Great Depression, photographer Dorothea Lang took to the road carrying her camera and the vision to document the downtrodden world around her. Her photos told the stories of migrant workers, browbeaten sharecroppers, drifters and wayward wanderers trying to find any bright sliver within a time so dark.
The Lumineers could very well have stepped out of one of Lang’s photographs, six rambling musicians forever frozen by a camera under stormy skies traveling down that long, dusty road to anywhere. I can picture them walking onward in scuffed boots, their faded hats keeping the sun out of their eyes, carrying instruments from town to town, stopping for anyone who had a few coins and need of a song. Music is the light they share, fitting considering the band name, and last night it shone like a lighthouse beacon over an arena full of fans clearly eager to embrace the joy.
For the Indie folk band from Denver, Colorado, who not so long ago was playing more intimate settings, the transition to an arena could very well have been a misstep. One 360 look around the Canadian Tire Centre at a crowd that were on their feet before the black curtain concealing the band was raised served to dispel any notion that the group may have been overzealous when booking their first arena tour. If that didn’t do it for you, three songs in, the band breaking into their ludicrously catchy sing-along hit “Ho Hey”, would see a utterly devoted crowd silence any doubts with shouts.
Some music asks you to clap along, sing and stomp your feet. Some demands it. The Lumineers tunes, however, pick you up out of your seat, shake you enough to ensure you're awake and then outright order it in a voice that makes R. Lee Ermey sound like a purring kitten in comparison.
The last time the group was in town they had to compete with the weather on a rainy night at Bluesfest. Tonight, the only distraction from the music –if you could call it a distraction– was the massive roar the audience made anytime the pace seemed to die down even in the moments it took singer Wesley Schultz to catch his breath.
“Well isn’t this amazing?” Schultz said, thanking the fans for turning out yet again for their second show here in under a year.
“It wasn’t that long ago when we were playing very, very small rooms, sometimes people’s living rooms, compared to something as big as this,” he said under a stage setup that included chandeliers that looked more fitting for Versailles then a loft. Despite the opulent accouterments, the band would attempt to return to their days of smaller settings by making their way to a stripped-down stage in the middle of the audience.
With only their core instruments, the band managed to make the massive seem minute with a more acoustic set that began with “Classy Girls” and saw various band members step away until only two remained for “Slow It Down”. Schultz strut-stomped his way between microphones so he could face all sides of the crowd that surrounded him before a train whistle-like sorrowful wail accompanied him back to the main stage to continue the set with “Sleep on the Floor”.
He wouldn’t stay there long, however, as three tunes back in and the animated frontman charged again into the crowd during “Ophelia”, holding the mic out to one hell of a backup vocals section.
Throughout the evening, touching stories were shared by Schultz of finding an unknown pistol in his father’s sock drawer after his death and the loss of his uncle to the Vietnam War. The singer also related how he marched earlier this year alongside brave women standing up for what they felt was wrong in his country before singing “Cleopatra”, a song he dedicated to the strong women in his life.
By the close of the band’s 90-minute show that included a stirring rendition of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and their hit “Stubborn Love”, it was evident in the ovation that The Lumineers could bring their rollicking toe-tapping caravan back to the capital any time they like.
The night was opened by a powerful set of bands on the undercard beginning with Charleston, South Carolina indie rockers SUSTO. What began as something slow and folk driven suddenly shifted gears into all out grunge complete with enough aggressive head banging to merit the addition of at least one orthopedist to the band’s road crew.
It was the second opener, though, that nearly stole the Lumineers' light.
If you came late you missed it. If you headed out for another beer it was your loss. If you were in line for the bathroom you really should have held it.
“Oh my God!”, “Who is this?” and “This is amazing!” was only some of the surprised commentary overheard when JJ Julius Son and his band Kaleo moved into their second song. It was a moment where you could watch the wave of disbelief and discovery roll over the crowd with a reaction one might make after accidentally turning a corner to find yourself unexpectedly in the middle of The Running of the Bulls.
You were not getting out of the way of Kaleo! You just had accept the charge wide eyed and smiling.
The Icelandic whirlwind started out like most storms do, relatively calm and then, bam, suddenly you find your house minus a roof and a couple of walls. The usual chatter hovering over bands that are not the headliner died a quick (and thankful) death as the crowd gave everything over to a band that commended attention.
Son jumped effortlessly between octaves showcasing a range that was equally compelling in the low as it was those creamy falsetto highs. The crowd were just as entranced by his guitar solos. This reviewer is of the opinion that Kaleo will not be an opening act for much longer . The Canadian Tire Centre audience appeared to agree.
When Wesley Schultz brought Kaleo up in show closing thanks, the sound that erupted was deafening.
Stage A – Main
- Flowers in Your Hair
- Ho Hey
- Gun Song
- Dead Sea
Stage B – Center Floor
- Classy Girls
- Where the Skies Are Blue
- Charlie Boy
- Slow It Down
Stage A – Main
- Sleep on the Floor
- Big Parade
- Walls (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
- My Eyes
- Long Way From Home
- Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bob Dylan Cover)
- Stubborn Love