Big summer concerts in Hyde Park are somewhat of an institution in London. Recently these events have been organised under the umbrella of the double-weekend-spanning British Summertime Festival, which has amassed itself an eye-watering list of alumni since 2013. I find myself attending the final day, roughly themed around the “Americana” genre, which is headlined by roots rock legends, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and features performances from Stevie Nicks, up-and-coming UK Country act Ward Thomas, and a number of other notable acts proud of their starred and striped influences.
The Lumineers are a perfect fit for this bill. Their stripped back, no-nonsense approach to folk-rock songwriting couples nicely to frontman Wesley Schultz’s Midwestern tones. They look the part too – one could easily imagine them running a hoe-down or providing the entertainment in a dusty old saloon. They’re happy to provide a front-loaded, crowd-pleasing set, settling for energy and consistency over complexity. This plays well with their audience, allowing them to focus on Schultz’s simple-yet-relatable lyrics and pleasing melodies.
We start with the upbeat and unpretentious material from their self-titled debut “The Lumineers”, beginning with ‘Submarine’, ‘Flowers in your Hair’ and the ubiquitous ‘Ho-Hey’. The crowd are obviously in a good mood, and are more than willing to participate in mass-singalong and foot-stomping. Schultz even pulls the old showbiz trick of stopping and restarting, during ‘Ho-Hey’, in order to ensure maximum audience engagement in the song’s title refrain. The performances are honest and bare – they rely critically on the force of Schultz’s personality and the quality of his singing, and he’s not found wanting.
Schultz and his band keep things moving at a decent pace. After ‘Ho-Hey’ they’ve won the crowd over, and proceed to move onto some of the more lyrically developed material from their second album. The singalong trick doesn’t work quite so well with ‘Gun Song’, as it’s less familiar, and unfortunately the show is somewhat marred by a visual display malfunction at this point. The band’s performance isn’t affected however, and the sound quality remains premium. Set highlights are ‘Angela’, whose minor chord inflections provided some nice harmonic variation away from the heavily major-key based set, and ‘Dead Sea,’ which is treated to a generous extra round of the final chorus.
Overall, I am impressed by The Lumineers’ notable ability to stick to their metaphorical guns, in the face of sometimes snobbish critical opinion. It’s undeniable that the material is simple, and many of the songs share similar rhythmic, melodic and harmonic motives, however it is delivered with vigorous enthusiasm, and technical aplomb. Schultz’s voice is particularly noteworthy – the records sound like captured live performances, and the lyrics are delivered in a consistent and clearly audible fashion.
If you’re looking for a high energy folk-rock experience, The Lumineers don’t disappoint.
The recent album ‘Cleopatra’ is available now via Decca Records.
For news on upcoming live dates from The Lumineers, head to their Website.