Welcome to The Lumineers’ largest headlining show in Europe, a situation arrived at what seems in a bewilderingly short space of time. With bits of terrace strategically placed under three enormous chandeliers, State wonders if the aim is to create an intimate country club style atmosphere or to allude to the notion that this is a big deal for the band (not least because they mention the fact several times). Whatever, somehow they achieve that Grand Ole Opry atmosphere in the O2 with all the aplomb of acts who have clocked up many more performance miles.
Old habits die hard though, and instead of a grand opening we get a shuffling entrance and fine tuning before ‘Submarines’ finally gets us underway and the evening flows into a superb cover of Sawmill Joe’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Problem’ to the foot stomping, come-all-ye tunes such as ‘Hey Ho’ –dispatched with no little balls fourth song in – and a version of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ that adds a new dimension to the original. These are counterbalanced by a tenderness and honesty in the likes of ‘Duet/Falling’ performed by Wesley Schultz and cello player Neyla Pekarek with such beauty that it captivates the cavernous room.
With the crowd firmly in their hands they decide to meet them and venture down to the floor for ‘Eloise’, insisting that all mobile phones be put away in order to experience the performance. Authenticity in music is something that’s hard fought for but seldom won yet with this performance there is a sense that The Lumineers have succeeded. At one point Stelth Ulvang pauses to heckle a lone rebel with his phone aloft. The rebel backs down.
Returning for the encore with ‘Morning Song’, ‘Gale Song’ (written for The Hunger Games soundtrack), the evening draws to a close with Big Parade and massive hand clapping and foot stomping. The chemistry in the band is undeniable and evident throughout and they flout the cue to exit, not wanting this night to end – choosing to linger on-stage and make a paper airplane, which Schultz launches into the crowd. It’s all here – folk, roots, honesty and integrity. A simple formula but simplicity is key and that’s perhaps why it’s the Irish who have promoted them to this status before others. As we leave, the airbrushed face of Dolly Parton stares down at us. We think she’d approve.
Photo: Isobel Thomas