Katia Faroun | Associate Photo Editor
The Lumineers drew out Pittsburgh’s folk crowd on Tuesday night and filled PPG Paints Arena with wide-brimmed hats and heavy Americana music, bringing a country aesthetic to the city.
The folk-rock band made a stop Downtown as part of their third world tour for their newest album, III. The group performed after openers J.S. Ondara and Mt. Joy.
J.S. Ondara kicked off the night with a beautiful performance featuring soulful tunes and heavy strings. With little more than 320,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, J.S. Ondara was surely the lesser-known of opening acts, but his allotted 30 minutes kept the audience entranced. His rich melodies, combined with the resounding tones of the miniature orchestra that accompanied him, offered the crowd a calming, yet powerful introduction to the night.
If J.S. Ondara’s performance was soothing and peaceful, Mt. Joy’s was on the opposite end of the spectrum. The band’s indie folk/rock style filled the arena with a buzzing electricity. The inclusion of their popular singles “Astrovan” and “Silver Lining” filled the audience with an energy that could only be released by the long-awaited entrance of The Lumineers.
And they didn’t disappoint. The Lumineers began their two-hour set with hit single “Sleep on the Floor,” with the crowd immediately on their feet and shouting out the well-known lyrics. The group’s energy was contagious, and their minimal stage design and casual demeanor created a comfortable atmosphere for the band members and the audience.
This humility was further exhibited through lead vocalist and guitarist Wesley Schultz’s down-to-earth and relatable character. His few spoken bits between songs drew attention not to the band’s talent, but rather to the formation of the songs and the stories behind their lyrics. During the band’s performance of “Angela,” Schultz sang while wandering through the floor and lower sections, greeting fans. Multiple times during the evening, Schultz recognized his fellow instrumentalists before the crowd and acknowledged their contributions to the album.
The entire concert followed along an artistic narrative, weaving in hits from previous albums into the story portrayed in III. The album follows the story of the fictitious Sparks family, which Schultz based off of a family member who has been struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. The album selects were accompanied with snippets of their respective music videos projected onto the screens. The combination of meaningful lyrics, familiar footage and a raw sound created a narrative that escaped the music and related to the lives of those listening.
A clear fan favorite was the group’s most popular song from III, “Gloria.” As a more upbeat song, it represents the chaos of the life of the character Gloria Sparks by juxtaposing a somber and disheartening story with a lively and cheerful tune. The sounds of joyful belting from the crowd conflicted with the tragic footage on the screen, stirring an unsettled feeling among the listeners.
Melancholic songs such as “My Cell” and “Jimmy Sparks” underscored the musicianship of the band, with specific riffs highlighting strings player Lauren Jacobson and pianist Stelth Ulvang. The alternation between pensive and jubilant songs captivated the audience, engaging them in the concert’s overarching narrative.
Without interrupting the storyline of the album, The Lumineers entertained fans by including singles such as “Ho Hey,” “Cleopatra” and “Ophelia,” along with deep cuts like “Flowers in Your Hair” and “In The Light.” The group invited J.S. Ondara and Mt. Joy back onstage for their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy,” designating a verse to each group’s lead vocalist. The Lumineers wrapped up the night with a personal favorite, “Stubborn Love,” topping off the joyful night with stomps and hollers.
The Lumineers effortlessly immersed fans into the story of III through their incorporation of melancholic melodies and ominous imagery. Overall, the group treated fans to a tender, rustic night of music they surely won’t forget.