Everything about The Lumineers’ Tampa concert was dripping with the band’s signature homespun folksiness, from the vintage-looking chandeliers to the wild, barefoot piano solos, to singer Wesley Schultz’s gentlemanly tip of his fedora before singing “Flowers in Your Hair” to an audience containing many twentysomething beauties with flowers in their hair.
With just one album under their belt, the Denver-by-way-of-Jersey quintet did Saturday what few bands will do — playing to thousands in a nearly full USF Sun Dome on their first major tour.
It would have been improbable just a few years ago, before Mumford and Sons paved a banjos-blazing trail for folk-pop to go mainstream, and a simple love ballad called “Ho Hey” became an inescapable smash hit.
Dressed in suspenders and rolled-up trousers that made them look like they’d just stepped out of a Dust Bowl documentary, the Lumineers didn’t waste much time getting to that elephant in the room Saturday. In a show of supreme confidence, or perhaps just eager to prove they’re more than their best-known hit, they played “Ho Hey,” which seemed like an obvious closer, just four songs in.
Opening with “Submarines,” they played most of the songs from their self-titled album, a Bob Dylan cover and “Falling In Love,” an unreleased duet with Schultz and cellist Neyla Pekarek, that showed off Pekarek’s vocals, and is hopefully a sign that she sing more in the band’s future. There were a lot of great moments, and a few dull spots, such as a low energy “Flapper Girl,” which seems inevitable for a band playing a 75-minute set with such a limited catalog.
The highlights came when the crowd got involved, which is how it should be when you’re dealing with folk music and its tradition of call and response. An extended version of “Stubborn Love,” which showcased Pekarek’s heart-wrenching cello and had multi-instrumentalist Stelth Ulvang tinkering furiously on a toy piano, had the crowd standing, clapping and shouting along, and stands out best moment of the night.
The thing that really makes The Lumineers captivating live, though, is their chemistry as a group. Schultz plays the straight man, while percussionist Jeremiah Fraites, and Ulvang mischievously orbit around him, dancing on top of pianos and drumming on everything, even the metal railing that surrounded Fraites’ drum kit.
Veteran road warriors Dr. Dog provided a nice a balance for the touring freshmen. The indie rockers from Philly, who released their seventh studio album this month, held the audience in a way that few opening acts have in recent memory, displaying a charismatic and poised stage presence in a quick set that closed with a spirited version of “Lonesome.”