The Lumineers at Koko, Camden
“This is our biggest sold out show so far in London, we’re very humbled. Thank you.” gushes frontman Wesley Schultz in a thick mid-western American drawl towards the end of what was a particularly rousing set at Koko in Camden; what’s refreshing is just how genuine and thankful he sounds. It’s this sense of heart-on-sleeve honesty that permeates through the band’s performance, elevating what is at its core a simple and potentially slightly contrived sound, up towards something more than the sum of its parts.
On a musical Venn-diagram, The Lumineers fall at a mid-point between where the heartfelt cinematic scope of Arcade Fire crosses over into the braces-wearing indie pop-folk explosion of late, popularised by bands such as Mumford & Sons. They’re not reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination; these are simple songs with simple chords, wrapped up in lyrics strewn about in the dust of the American prairieland covering love, loss and life in general. But for this performance, that’s not really the point.
It doesn’t matter that this music isn’t going to set the world on fire, because live, tonight at least, the band step up beyond the apparent confines of their music and create a charismatic and utterly charming performance that successfully avoids ever dropping into pastiche.
They play with real heart and soul. There’s an unfortunate cynical edge that becomes apparent when approaching music of this variety, rootsy folk or country inspired indie music is going to live or die on the conviction and honesty that it’s being played with. There’s always the problem when watching or listening to a band of this sort (think Mumford & Sons) that they’re simply playing make-believe within the world they’re trying to construct. The Lumineers however, through the sheer weight of their live performance (impeccable instrumentation and a truly magnificent central vocal performance) manage to immediately quash any cynicism and come across like a genuine band of musicians playing a genuine sort of music that they genuinely enjoy and wish to share.
The only issue is other than set highlights including I Aint Nobodies Problem, recent single, the stomping Ho Hey and an excellent cover of Subterranean Homesick Blues, the songs do have a slight tendency to merge together, not really stepping beyond the formula of chanted vocals, honky-tonk-esque piano, rapidly strummed acoustic guitar and mournful cello. On record this might prove to make the album a slightly duller listen. But here, in this venue, with this audience, it’s a truly captivating performance by a band worthy of riding the current rustic-folk revival wave for as long as humanly possible.
Photos: Helen Parish
For more information on the Lumineers, including tour dates and releases, check out their website.
Watch the band perform new single Ho Hey here: