The Lumineers arrived into the music world fortuitously. In 2012, their innocuous blend of folk and rock was in the midst of a breakthrough, thanks in large part to predecessors like Mumford and Sons, who had ignited an appetite for melodic, upbeat, acoustic music, the kind that inspires foot-stomping and hand-clapping and boisterous sing-alongs.
The Lumineers’ self-titled debut sold nearly 2 million copies and sent the band off on a relentless touring schedule, one in which they graduated from bars to theaters to amphitheaters within the span of two years.
Their first Kansas City show was in April of 2012 at the Riot Room, which holds about 300 people. Five months later, they sold out Liberty Hall in Lawrence, capacity about 900. Less than nine months later, in June 2013, they drew more than 10,000 to the amphitheater in Bonner Springs. Then they went away for more than three years, to record their second album.
Tuesday night, the Lumineers drew more than 10,500 fans to the Sprint Center. It was their second show in Kansas City since a show in the Power and Light District in June, and it reaffirmed the mainstream appeal of their music and the affection it arouses among a large, loyal fan base. At times, the show felt like a rally as much as a concert.
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They brought two stellar openers: Margaret Glaspy, a soulful, folky singer/songwriter from northern California; and the inimitable Andrew Bird, a multi-talented multi-instrumentalist from the Chicago area who delivered a headliner-worthy 45-minute set that showcased his brilliance on the violin and guitar, his savvy with looping various sounds and his impeccable talent for whistling like a bird.
Before the Lumineers took the stage, the public address system played “The Chain,” a Fleetwood Mac song that seemed to have little to do with what would ensue. In retrospect, it seemed moderately suitable: Most of the 10,500 fans in the place seemed still deeply attached to the Lumineers’ first album, which dominated the set list.
They opened with one of those songs, the jaunty “Submarines,” which featured lead singer and songwriter Wesley Schultz at the piano. He switched to guitar for the next song, “Flowers in Your Hair,” a picking-and-grinning folk song with a light bluegrass touch. They followed that with their biggest hit, “Ho Hey,” an uber-pop tune with a nursery-rhyme vibe that ignited the first of several hearty sing-alongs.
Before the next song, “Cleopatra,” the title track to the Lumineers’ second album, Schultz brought up last weekend’s women’s rallies across the globe, mentioning that his mother and wife attended one and citing Cleopatra as a woman of strength and fortitude, comments that aroused a gale of cheers mixed with a light smattering of jeers.
He told another story before “Gun Song,” a tune about discovering his father’s pistol in a dresser drawer not long after his dad had died. Before “Charlie Boy,” he recalled his father’s brother, Uncle Charlie, who went off to war and didn’t come home alive.
And so it went. The stage was well-adorned with a giant video screen that projected plenty of graphic images and video footage, with two banks of lights in descending heights and a series of pipe sculptures hanging above the band. None of that, however, distracted from the band or the music, which, for nearly all of the 90 minutes, kept his audience engaged, if not enthralled.
The crowd reacted favorably to tracks from “Cleopatra,” most of which bear the same traits of songs from “The Lumineers,” right down to snatches of melody and chord progressions.
But the songs that stirred up the loudest responses, the singing and hand-clappings and other shows of support were songs from their debut album, like “Big Parade,” which started as a guitar-only song from Schultz but then erupted into a full-band song, including some wonderfully mournful cello licks from Neyla Pekarek, who is vastly underused in this band, especially as a vocalist. When that song was done, a blizzard of confetti fell upon the crowd on the floor, further stirring the jubilation in the arena.
Other highlights: The set performed at the acoustic stage, which included “Classy Girls” and “Where the Skies Are Blue,” two songs that aroused a brief campfire vibe; “Patience,” a piano instrumental delivered by drummer Jeremiah Fraites that bore a soft Vince Guaraldi vibe; and the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which featured Andrew Bird on violin.
They closed with another hit and favorite from their debut album, “Stubborn Love,” a melodic, bouncy lament about love and heartache that includes incisive lines like “She’ll tear a hole in you / The one you can’t repair / But I still love her I don’t even care” and “It’s better to feel pain / Than nothing at all / The opposite of love’s indifference.”
As it did through most of the show, the crowd bounced and sang-along, engaged in the sweet melody and milky-white vibe of a well-crafted pop song.
Submarines; Flowers in Your Hair; Ho Hey; Cleopatra; Gun Song; Dead Sea; Classy Girls; Where the Skies Are Blue; Charlie Boy; Slow It Down; Sleep on the Floor; Angela; Big Parade; Ophelia; In the Light; My Eyes; Patience. Encore: Long Way From Home; Subterranean Homesick Blues; Stubborn Love.