With the 1980s throwback fluoro onesies of the late 2000s making way for the 1880s throwback checked shirts and suspenders of the past few years, the folk-rock-revival, or ‘Mumfordism’ to coin a phrase, shows no signs of abating.
After seven years of plodding along the US tour scene, Colorado outfit The Lumineers are starting to emerge as gain traction as a major player in this erstwhile musical outfit, thanks to the popularity of ‘that British folk band’, and their exposure in the latest Hunger Games flick.
What’s pleasing to discover upon seeing them perform live is that beneath the surface there is a serious musical group struggling to break out.
The Lumineers were warmly received at Melbourne’s Palace Theatre for their Big Day Out sideshow. With so many bands touring at this hectic time of year, it’s always nice to see an audience that is receptive, energetic and not suffering from festival or gig overload.
Opening with the clearly popular Submarines – a deceptively in-depth track about truth and lies – The Lumineers showcased what seven years of recording and touring can result in with a high-energy, polished and engaging performance.
Five-strong on this tour — with two new members having joined in late 2012 from the original line-up of Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites and Neyla Pekarek — this is a band that delights in blending the old with the new.
Their instrumental repertoire is impressive. With the standard guitars, piano and banjo supported by Pekarek’s cello and sometimes stunning backing vocals, it’s the supporting cast of mandolins, accordions, percussion and other rootsy accoutrements that result in the Lumineers ‘big-folk’ sound.
As a rock gig, The Lumineers ticked all the boxes: from the audience-favourite sing-along of popular 2011 single Hey Ho to the casual, summer-time banter expected of a festival touring band to the God-given right of the two-track encore.
However, there’s just an overwhelming feeling of twee pandering here, as everything from the costumes (checks, suspenders and burlap are everywhere) to the first careful notes of the piano is as clichéd folk-rock as it can be.
Beneath the surface of kitschy throwbacks, though, a serious and genuine musical talent threatens to rear its head. If you can move past the sing-alongs and image-making there is something here, maybe not for the most serious of serious folk-rock listeners, but there are certainly worse bands in this genre.
Photos: The Lumineers – Palace Theatre, Melbourne 23/01/14
Photos: Alesha Martyn