Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Lumineers at Madison Square Garden

Wesley Schultz
Guitarist Wesley Schultz's best friend died of a drug overdose in 2002. Engaging in cathartic therapy, Schultz and his friend's brother, drummer Jeremiah Fraites, began playing music together in their home base of Ramsey, New Jersey. By 2005, they performed in New York City clubs under the names Free Beer, 6Cheek, and Wesley Jeremiah. They came upon a final name while in Jersey City, New Jersey, when the concert promoter erroneously announced the band as the Lumineers. Lack of local success, however, swayed Schultz and Fraites in 2010 to relocate to Denver, Colorado. There, they placed a classified ad for a cellist, and the first person to respond was Neyla Pekarek, a classically-trained Denver native who was fresh out of college and was thinking about becoming a teacher. The trio began playing at open mics, as Pekarek helped soften the rough east coast edges of Schultz and Fraites while expanding her skills to mandolin and piano. The band's first single, "Ho Hey," sold over 2 million copies in 2003 and led to a million-selling debut album. The Lumineers' second studio album, Cleopatra, was released on April 8, 2016.

Headlining the first of two consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden tonight, the Lumineers expanded to a quintet, with Stelth Ulvang on piano, accordion, mandolin, guitar, percussion, keyboards and backing vocals, and Byron Isaacs on bass, guitar, and backing vocals. Early in the show, Schultz reminded the audience that he and Fraites grew up only 12 miles away from the venue. "I saw one of my first concerts here, so tonight is a really special night for us," said Schultz. The Lumineers performed 19 songs over approximately an hour and a half, and attempted to bring a down-home ambiance to the arena with simple folk-styled music, a  four-song performance on a small stage in the center of the venue and, during "Ophelia," Schultz walking briskly through the floor audience and into the mezzanine. The beauty of the music was its simplicity, even with musicians frequently changing instruments. Especially when the quintet performed on the mini-stage, the performance was hinged on uncluttered acoustic rock with rustic Americana roots and stomp-and-clap pop arrangements. Schultz performed "Long Way from Home" solo on a hollow body guitar at the apron of the main stage, emphasizing the soulfulness of his front-porch style of songwriting. On many other songs, however, the band drove with rock power. The Lumineers perfectly did everything to make heart-on-the-sleeve music fill a big room.

The Lumineers will open for U2 on June 28-29 at the MetLife Stadium. Until then, visit the Lumineers at

  1. Submarines
  2. Flowers In Your Hair
  3. Ho Hey
  4. Cleopatra
  5. Gun Song
  6. Dead Sea
  7. Classy Girls
  8. Where the Skies Are Blue
  9. Charlie Boy
  10. Slow It Down
  11. Sleep on the Floor
  12. Angela
  13. Ophelia
  14. Big Parade
  15. In the Light
  16. My Eyes

  1. Long Way from Home
  2. Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bob Dylan cover)
  3. Stubborn Love