Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Remember that feeling you had the first time you heard Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes? It felt familiar, like you already knew it and you instinctively wanted to learn all of the words so you could sing along? Well, that is the feeling of seeing The Lumineers in concert. I'm not going to pretend I'm some huge fan or that I liked them before they were popular or anything like that. I don't actively dislike The Lumineers, The Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons or any of the other bands that don't fit squarely on any one radio station these days. I just don't really listen to them very much and last night as I watch The Lumineers and the crowd that was there to watch them I realized why. To someone like me the sincerity of these bands makes me uncomfortable. People my age or younger, who live in cities or live in England, or live in cities in England performing rural, American, roots-music completely devoid of irony makes me suspicious. My hipster-universe is so steeped in cynicism and irony that the pure unfettered joy that these artists exude is perplexing.
After seeing both Shovels and Rope as well as The Lumineers last night I can assure you that these bands are genuine. Their only ulterior motives involve making themselves and their fans happy. They see a concert experience as a participatory event and they demand that you clap, stomp and sing-a-long and they write their songs in a way that makes you want to.
Shovels and Rope - Birmingham video via YouTube
I had never heard nor even heard of, Shovels and Rope before last night but I thought their set was excellent and I'm sure we'll all be hearing more from them in the next year. They are a two-piece band from North Carolina, they are married, they are folk musicians and they are both multi-instrumentalists. Even though there were two of them, their set had one-man-band-vibes. At the start the wife was singing and playing guitar while the husband played a bare-bones drum kit, one hand clutching a maraca, the other hand clutching two drum sticks. He had a harmonica around his neck and a keyboard accessible to his right side. As the set progressed the couple traded places a couple of times, showcasing both of their skills with the instruments at their disposal. Their stage-banter was excellent. They came across as humble, charming and completely adorable. Both of them sang and their harmonies were beautiful but I was more drawn to the sound of the woman's voice, who sounds like a blend of young Dolly Parton and Stevie Nicks. I don't think their set was magical from start to finish but I definitely enjoyed it and I think the more they road test their material the more on-target their songwriting will become.
There was a 20 minute break between Shovels and Rope and The Lumineers, which is a pretty rare occurrence at an Austin City Limits Television taping. The crowd went bonkers when The Lumineers came out, including my Mom whom I had brought along to the taping. The crowd was a blend of people young and old. There were folks who understand all of the band's musical references along side people who are hearing Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues for the first time at a Lumineers concert.
For a band with only one, 40 minute record The Lumineers played long and hard and it is obvious that their live show is well-rehearsed. I never fault a band for having gimmicks, especially when those gimmicks work and all of their gimmicks were excellent. The drummer never wants to stay on his drum stool and no one wants to keep their hat on throughout an entire performance. The cute, young lady in the group is wearing your dead grandmother's lace dress and she dances in it just like Minnie Pearl. One of the elements I was most impressed with in their set was their knack for crowd-control. Like I said earlier, their songs are designed for you to clap-a-long and if you're not clapping, they will come into the crowd and clap until you do. They have lots of call-and-response songs as well as sing-a-longs and they did a great job of getting the audience involved. They also did something, which I have never seen at an ACL TV taping. Near the end of their set, the full band walked off the stage and headed right to the center of the crowd on the floor level. They stood on some boxes and performed a completely sincere and heartfelt version of the song, Darlene. I feel like that was something that was just for those of us in the audience, since the lack of microphones will make it pretty much impossible to air on television.
Did The Lumineers melt my cold, black, cynical heart? Hell to the no. Did I enjoy myself at last night's show? Of course I did. This band was genetically created to make people smile and they achieved that goal last night.