I had the good fortune to chat with both Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites from The Lumineers during lockdown about their respective solo projects and it was very evident from those conversations that they saw music as a way to bring peace and calm to a world in the throes of a global pandemic.
Whilst Wesley chose to revisit past influences from his musical past and bring something new to a collection of covers, almost musically injecting new life into classic songs in the process, a form of invigoration, his long time writing partner and musical brother Jeremiah released an achingly beautiful album of music centred around a piano which really felt like a salve for the troubled times we found ourselves in during a global pandemic.
I’m sure as the two of them put together the new album for their band The Lumineers, ‘Brightside’, neither could envisage embarking on a world tour with a backdrop of the violent and criminal invasion of a democratic country that we see unfolding in our newspapers as we speak.
If ever music as a way to escape, as a way to heal, as a way to bring momentary peace was more important, I’m not sure but this is indeed the case as the band tour their album worldwide. That these men, who have written together so long, have been able to write music that can simultaneously invigorate our bodies and calm our souls is timely and welcome.
Last week, they played to a sold out O2 arena in London and for two glorious hours we could escape the violence on the radio news channels, on the television and on social media. It’s almost, as if proof were needed, that the tour has taken on a much more important role as it brings people together to enjoy each other’s company, to sing and dance together and to mix with their fellow human beings. Unwittingly, the music that the band has written for their new album could not be more important and the joyous way in which the band imparted their brilliant catalogue of music in front of the packed arena was exactly what everyone needed.
The performance opened with title track ‘Brightside’ and as Wesley sang ‘You’re stranded on the bridge, you’re crying for your kids’, how could he ever have realised how poignant that could be as we see pictures of families torn apart in Ukraine. As a sell-out crowd sang back the song’s chorus refrain to the band ‘I’ll be your brightside baby tonight’, you could feel the release of tension, I watched as some of the audience openly cried as they sang. This was just a song but also found itself becoming a refrain for the times we find ourselves in and completely set out the stall for the performance from there on.
It was almost as if the band could feel the responsibility given to them to lift the spirits of the crowd and they did not fail, in fact they excelled as they moved through twenty-five songs in a set list that encompassed old and new, well known and lesser known songs.
It was a tour de force of music and proof of what a brilliant band The Lumineers are. So often dismissed as a band with one song by the uninitiated, they are in fact a band who get better with every album as they add to their impressive trove of music and this gig was proof of that as the crowd sang back every lyric to the band over the entirety of the show.
The energy of the band was palpable. Stelth Ulvang ran around in a suit and bare feet, consumed by the joy of the performance as he flitted between, keyboards, accordion, percussion and backing vocals, making me feel exhausted just watching him but also making it impossible not to join in with that euphoria.
Lauren Jacobsen was superb on the strings, keyboards and vocals playing her violin beautifully as she always kept the sound of this band firmly rooted in their folk origins. Byron Isaacs on bass and vocals and Brandon Miller also on guitar looked like they were blown away by the reception from the crowd.
It really felt like The Lumineers and their heartfelt and passionate band performance had opened the gates to arena live performance again. Of course, musical brothers in arms Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites gave a faultless performance which proved that there are hopefully many more songs to come from this brilliant band. Thank you for the music, we needed that!