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Lumineers use familiarity to its advantage at Pine Knob

Jul 17, 2023

The adage of not fixing what isn’t broken served the Lumineers well on Friday night, Aug. 25, at the Pine Knob Music Theatre.

In its second sold-out appearance in 14 months the group stuck largely to the same playbook as it did during its June of 2022 performance during the early days of the tour promoting its latest album, “Brightside.” Twenty of the night’s 23 songs were the same, often played in the same order — the biggest difference being less emphasis on “Brightside,” trimming the album back to five selections compared to eight last year.

But the familiarity only bred fondness — make that full-blown adoration — from the youthful crowd of 15,000 or so at Pine Knob, who were on their feet from start to finish. Friday’s show was another hour and 45 minutes of joyous musical dexterity, a fluid exposition during which the six (and on occasion seven) multi-instrumentalists delivered the Lumineers’ stylistically broad blend of Americana with well-practiced ease. Co-founder Jeremiah Fraites in particular was still a wonder to watch as he moved from drum kit to piano to mandolin, playing a kick drum at front stage while playing the latter.

Frontman Wesley Schultz jogged up the aisle all the way to the Pine Knob lawn during “Brightside,” And keyboardist Stelth Ulvang was again a hyperactive ball of energy, leaping barefoot around the three-tiered stage, playing balance beam atop an upright piano as the band played inserted a bit of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” into “Leader of the Landslide” and executing a handstand during “Big Parade.”

The differences in Friday’s concert were few but notable. After opening with “Cleopatra” Schultz began strumming the familiar chords to Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” — inspired, he said, by seeing Pine Knob’s address, 33 Bob Seger Drive — and the troupe played the first half of the song before moving into “Flowers in Your Hair,” the first song from its self-titled 2012 debut album. And opening act James Bay — whose 40-minute set included a pair of brand new songs as well as favorites such as “If You Ever Want to Be in Love” and “Hold Back the River” — joined the Lumineers for “Gale Song” from 2016’s “Cleopatra,” singing the second verse and adding a guitar break near the end.

The Lumineers again showed a depth of catalog by frontloading Friday’s show with big hits such as “Cleopatra,” “Ho Hey” and “Angela” while building momentum over the course of the concert. Songs such as “Dead Sea,” “A.M. Radio,” “Gloria,” “Ophelia” and “Salt and the Sea” were fortified by dramatic, swelling arrangements, soothing in spots and anthemic in others. The generous encore set — “Donna,” “Submarines,” “Remington,” “Reprise” and “Stubborn Love” — was equally potent; it was, yes, identical to 2022, but the effect was like the visit from a much-loved friend who had a lot of the same things to say but that we were nevertheless happy to hear.

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