Rapidly rising neo-folk outfit proves worthy of its two sold-out shows at the L.A. landmark.
|Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers on Sept. 27, 2013 at the Greek Theatre|
Summer extended its reach in more ways than on Friday night (Sept. 27, 2013). While warm Santa Ana winds moved through the Greek Theatre, a triple bill featuring the Lumineers, Dr. Dog and Nathaniel Rateliff served up a seasonal celebration that had the diverse, capacity crowd – ranging from youngsters to hip baby boomers – reveling all night long.
Little more than a week into a month-long tour that kicked off in Salt Lake City, the blend of Americana (served via openers Rateliff and the Lumineers) and a bit of everything else (courtesy of Dr. Dog's mix of psychedelic, roots-rock and old-school funk) proved a perfect union.
It may seem unlikely that a young outfit that released its Grammy-nominated debut less than 18 months ago could sell out two nights at the Greek; even the band seemed astounded, recalling having performed at the intimate Hotel Café early last year. Yet the Lumineers' 80-minute set explained the band’s appeal.
Frontman Wesley Schultz (above) was a perfect master of ceremonies, leading the quintet in zestful versions of most of the songs from their self-titled 2012 debut. "Ho Hey," their trendy breakthrough sing-along, was offered up early, but it was only one of many highlights, as Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion), Neyla Pekarek (cello, bass, vocals), Stelth Ulvang (piano) and Ben Wahamaki (bass, guitar) each brought their gifts to the 16-song appearance.
The ambitious "Dead Sea," with Schultz's solo acoustic guitar intro gradually flowering into a nuanced piece enhanced by Pekarek's tender cello and Ulvang's inspired piano playing, led into an equally moving "Slow It Down" made even sparser, with Schultz joined by Fraites on tambourine and harmonies.
|Neyla Pekarek of the Lumineers.|
Toward the end of their main portion, the band did something you regularly see at arena shows but not often at this Griffith Park venue: much to the delight of the crowd, they moved halfway back into the seats to offer two acoustic numbers, "Darlene" and "Elouise," both bonus tracks on the recent deluxe edition of their album. Even if the sound wasn't perfect, the intent was admirable, and the energy it brought to the night was palpable.
The Lumineers closed with a wonderfully grand "Big Parade," a mix of folk and traditional country strains fused into rolling sections of slow strumming and shining vocal harmonies. Its finale, in which rock drumming and an undeniable chorus led many fans to clap along, ended the evening on a high note.
Those unfamiliar with Philadelphia's Dr. Dog at the start of its 45-minute turn are likely catching up now, downloading or ordering copies of the band’s bevy of albums (including B-Room, arriving Tuesday). If Neil Young collaborated with the Felice Brothers, it might sound something like this six-man ensemble, whose genre-busting manner couldn't help but draw attention. Most everyone near me seemed drawn to the troupe's compelling approach and strong lead singers, bassist Toby Leaman and guitarist Scott McMicken.
|Toby Leaman of Dr. Dog on Sept. 27.|
The retro R&B of "The Truth" was textured and pretty, the tandem lead guitar attack of "These Days" exhilarating. But Dr. Dog's power comes from playing with freewheeling, authentic passion, with an energy grounded to an emotional core. "Too Weak to Ramble" proved that point, as Leaman's convincing vocals combined with organ and conjured memories of the Band. The upbeat "Shadow People," with McMicken on lead, built from a straightforward acoustic kickoff into a full-throttle rocker with sterling three-part singing.
Though Rateliff had the challenge of taking the stage while the majority of seats were still empty, that didn't stop him and his great backing quartet from thoroughly impressing. The Denver singer-songwriter showcased his excellent crop of potent songs, which frequently began as folk ballads, then ratcheted up to majestically rootsy ends.
From his opening salvo, the haunting "I Am," it was clear Rateliff is someone who knows how to squeeze the best out of his terrific material. That number, as well as the equally stirring "Still Trying," began with his emotive voice front and center. Then harmonies and layers of keys, bass and percussion would enter, bringing more riches.
"Don't Get Too Close" was propulsive from its start, the harmonies, rolling percussion and sublime voices of the other instruments finally erupting during a short but impressive segue. "We have nothing but hits for you all night long," the so-far-hit-less newcomer mused after a superb performance of "Don't Get Too Close." Let's hope his joking can foretell his future.
Photos: Kelly A. Swift