The Lumineers seemed to be genuinely shocked as they took in the sight of the 17,000 people crowded into the seats and lawn of the Merriweather Post Pavilion, reminiscing mid-set over the fact that just two years ago, while promoting their first album, they played at Baltimore’s very own Ottobar. Of course, that was prior to the massive success of their singles “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love” as well as their two Grammy nominations.
The alt-coutry singer Rayland Baxter, who has previously toured with The Civil Wars and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals kicked off the evening. In a sense, playing in Maryland was a homecoming for him, because he attended and played lacrosse at Loyola University Maryland through his sophomore year. Then, he got injured and ultimately decided to drop out of school.
As he told the audience in jest, he’ll go back and finish “whenever playing music gets boring.” While he is definitely a talented musician, the mellow nature of his music as well as the fact that few knew the lyrics to any of his songs made it rather difficult for him to hype up the crowd.
Next up was the pop-influenced, singer-songwriter BøRNS. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard their catchiest song “Electric Love” featured in Hulu’s TV spots. Lead-singer Garret Borns’ vocal talent possesses the kind of uniqueness that may one day make BøRNS one of those immediately identifiable bands.
Their set, which included an epic cover of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” proved dynamic enough to engage the crowd, even inspiring me to look up more of their music after the show. Songs of choice include the danceable “American Money” and “Holy Ghost.”
By the time The Lumineers arrived on stage, the crowd’s anticipation level was sky-high. Guitarist and lead vocalist Wesley Schultz’s voice soared through their opening song, “Sleep on the Floor” before they transitioned into the first single of their new album “Ophelia” and the classics “Flowers in Your Hair” and “Ho Hey.” Before beginning “Ho Hey,” Schultz told the audience to feel free to film that song but requested that they subsequently turn off their phones and remain present in the show.
Although this may have frustrated some members of the audiences, I couldn’t agree more. There’s something cathartic in the moments when you’re one of a few thousand people, all united in singing the words to your favorite song with the worries of your day far from mind. Those moments simply aren’t the same when you’re trying to make sure your camera’s zoom is right, focusing on keeping your hands steady and so on.
For the softer, bluesy “Where the Skies Are Blue” and “Classy Girls,” they transitioned to a more intimate stage on the lawn, allowing those of us in the cheap seats to feel equally connected. The Lumineers’ constant, energizing intensity quickly put the question of whether or not they could hold such a large audience’s attention despite the often melancholy tone of their songs to rest.
Great performers in both the technical and more abstract sense, the band kept the audience captivated, only breaking their own musical spell to fill us in on the back stories behind songs such as “Charlie Boy” and “Gun Song,” both of which have strong ties to Schultz’s family. At last, much to the audience’s woe, the evening came to its conclusion with a stirring rendition of “Stubborn Love.”
As The Lumineers dared to leave it all out on the stage, the rest of us belted out the chorus. As we exited the venue, my companion and I couldn’t get over how amazing The Lumineers’ sound transitioned to a live performance. The show at the Merriweather Post Pavilion truly surpassed our expectations. Even though it had just ended, we already felt nostalgic for the memory of that night.