Music Review: The Lumineers – Always Look On The Brightside, Or All Enjoying Where We Are

December 3, 2022




The Lumineers: Brightside World Tour / SunBet Arena, Time Square, Pretoria


The Lumineers’ live performance is characterised by a high level of musicality – everyone’s a multi-instrumentalist, and they present the possibly unique scenario of having six people on one stage who can play a tambourine properly – and a physically expressed passion for what they do. The latter is particularly flamboyantly in pianist (mostly) Stelth Ulvang, who, between running to the furthest extent of the stage on each side playing a mandolin or an accordion, can be found dancing barefoot atop his piano or performing an impressively steady headstand.

Frontman Wesley Schultz doesn’t move nearly as much, but from the moment he launches into the opening chords of the tour’s title track, playing a gorgeous Gretsch White Falcon (only for that song – a hugely rock ‘n roll gesture for the average guitarist in the audience), he establishes a powerful stage presence that sees him able to effectively engage with the crowd while also maintaining a slight air of mystery. Long-term musical partner Jeremiah Fraits, in his trademark black-and-white T-shirt and braces ensemble is calmly perched behind the drums, though he periodically wanders to the front of the stave to perform a song with the whole band in a line facing the audience. Violinist and pianist Lauren Jackson has her own schtick – a permanently serious expression that only starts to soften in the second half of the show, when smiles regularly start to slip through.

A feature of the show, particularly notable for its rarity among touring artists in South Africa, is the audience singing along lustfully with pretty much every song, not just the big radio hits. Schultz conspicuously clocks this early on, putting a hand on his heart in appreciation. Even a Bob Dylan cover, a song that’s been around longer than the band members have been alive, is less well received than the vast bulk of the band’s own oeuvre.

Another unusual element of the concert is The Lumineers’ comfort with short, succinct songs. Many bands rearrange their work for the live space, often effectively, to allow for more dynamics and highs and lows in energy terms. Here, though, if a song is done after two minutes, then it’s done and more than satisfactory, and there’s no reason to drone on for the sake of appearances.

The set is a mash-up of songs from across the band’s four albums, and while there is no filler, standouts include Brightside, Cleopatra, old favourite Ho Hey, AM Radio, Dead Sea, Slow It Down, Gloria, Where We Are and Stubborn Love, all performed with the same mix of folksy authenticity and expert technical skills.

This is a band that projects a lot of warmth from the stage and receives it back in spades. Add that to the high number of instantly recognisable tracks, plus the high quality of all the rest, and a concert in their company is a memorable night out.