The Lumineers light up the Plains

Photo: Renaud Philippe

During the show, the band ventured out onto a platform in the middle of the audience to perform in an intimate circle.

The Lumineers, who are accustomed to performing in smaller venues, admitted that their headliner concert on the Plains of Abraham on the first Friday of the Festival d’Été de Québec (FEQ) on July 8 provided, “the biggest crowd we’ve ever played for so far.”

The humble American group may not yet be used to their star status, but that didn’t stop the audience from treating them like superstars with deafening cheers from the youngish crowd. Yet The Lumineers’ folk-rock sound is attractive both to older folks and to newbie music lovers who appreciate the pop influence that now accompanies the newer generation of folk bands. One family from Toronto was heading to Halifax on vacation and sought out The Lumineers show since Mom, Dad, and their pre-adolescent sons are all fans.

With a 9:30 p.m. start, no time was wasted playing their breakthrough hit “Ho Hey” and new single “Ophelia” from their Cleopatra album. Then, around 10 p.m., the group ran off stage to mount a platform within the crowd from which they performed two numbers, including a cover of a song by Bob Dylan, a major influence on the band.

Guitarist and lead singer Wesley Schultz addressed the crowd, expressing his surprise and gratitude for the enthusiastic welcome. “We didn’t expect this, so thank you!” Schultz and fellow songwriter Jeremiah Fraites (drums, piano) founded the band in 2002 following the drug-overdose death of Josh Fraites, Jeremiah’s brother and Schultz’s best friend, as a way to deal with their loss.

Cellist Neyla Pekarek made it a trio in 2010 and now they total five members. The songs, with their emotive lyrics chock-full of poetic devices, tell stories. The seemingly joyful “Big Parade,” which included piano-top dancing as confetti exploded into the sky, marked the climax of the concert. As with many of The Lumineers’ songs, however, closer examination of the lyrics reveals a more serious and profound meaning.

In a reflective moment, Jeremiah Fraites performed an instrumental piano solo. Schultz followed with a quiet song, as a tribute to his father to mark the ninth anniversary of his death while the audience waved their cell phones. The end of the concert came too fast, finishing about 10:50 p.m., but concert-goers were accepting of The Lumineers’ abrupt departure after singing along to the last bittersweet song “Stubborn Love.”