The Lumineers / Gregory Alan Isakov / Daniel Rodriguez

It was a great triple bill, some might call it Men With Hats. 

After solid opening sets from Isakov and Rodrigues, fellow Coloradans The Lumineers literally popped out from the stage for the first few numbers at Pechanga Arena in San Diego. A drum kit emerged from the runway which extended and looped into the floor section. The band rolled through several songs, opening with the eponymous single of their new album BRIGHTSIDE and soon after their signature (and first-ever single) “Ho Hey.” The innovative stage included two rings with standing room only. That made for some lucky fans, who found themselves surrounded by Lumineers. 

Most of the songs’ arrangements fall into the anthemic and cinematic, which worked well for the arena setting in San Diego. Having opened for U2 at The Rose Bowl and elsewhere, The Lumineers have honed their chops.

Founding members Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums) throughout the show

Founding members and the band’s songwriters Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion, piano) commanded most of the attention through most of the show.

Fraites often left his kit to don an acoustic guitar and later a mandolin for “Charlie Boy,” a poignant song about armed forces. 

There is a cornucopia of bands that have gained traction in the last decade, owing much to the seeds that were planted half a century ago by The Band. Eschewing the often bombastic tendencies of the day, these bands traces the footsteps of The Band by embracing a more bucolic and organic sound. It is not just an emphasis on acoustic instrumentation but an affectionate nod to the past and imbued with a modern take. The Lumineers fit well into that notable clutch of artists. The genre for decades has been called Americana. Is it any coincidence that both The Lumineers and The Band have a song called “Ophelia”? Hard to say.

Stelth Ulvang

Stelth Ulvang (the Garth Hudson of The Lumineers) moved ably across keyboards, mandolin and accordion. He later displayed his versatility on piano. Eventually, he went wild, strutting across railings in the arena with his guitar. The Band’s eclectic instrumentalist was never so gymnastic. Check out his agility here.

Throwing caution and vaccination to the wind, Schultz earlier leapt into the pit to sing and mingle with a gaggle of punters. 

A nice interlacing of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” fed the middle of “Leader of the Landslide.” Schultz provided a lengthy introduction to “Where We Are,” aptly pointing out that “I don’t know where we are but it will be okay” is a good reflection of the last couple years, even if the lyric was prompted by a roll over car accident. 

Toward the end of the evening the headliner brought out Rodriguez and Isakov to assay a lovely version of Tom Petty’s “Walls.” With all the musicians in a front line acoustic arrangement, it was a powerful rendition. The Lumineers opened a few shows on Petty’s 2017 tour.

Impressively, the current tour is built on a comprehensive climate action program via REVERB’s Music Climate Revolution campaign, which, “in addition to reducing the tour’s environmental footprint and engaging fans to take action at the shows, will support projects that directly and measurably eliminate greenhouse gases while benefitting diverse global communities. These efforts will make the tour climate positive; eliminating significantly more greenhouse gas pollution than the tour emits including fan travel to and from shows.”

The Lumineers were able to pull from nearly two decades’ worth of songwriting effort, and ten years of recorded music. Many of the songs have been opened up over the years as the band commands larger venues, which is strong evidence that the band is maturing admirably. 

(images by Brad Auerbach)

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.