As The Lumineers took the stage at SPACE (the first venue they ever played in Chicago) to begin its Studio X show last Friday, the band dove right into “Sleep on the Floor,” the first track off their second record Cleopatra. But frontman Wesley Schultz wasn’t quite ready. He told the filled-to-capacity venue that his earpiece wasn’t in right and that the false start was a “behind the curtains” moment. A moment that may have seemed insignificant but largely mirrored the band’s career, which skyrocketed, ready or not, in 2012. And now the group is gearing up to do it all again.
Unlike a handful of bands that place importance on pace when just starting out, The Lumineers found comfort and value in taking things slow. They didn’t rush to release its sophomore album, nor did they feel the need to constantly remind listeners of their presence. In fact, between 2012 and now, several friends have even asked me, “What ever happened to the Lumineers?” as if releasing one album had been it for the group. But rest assured, The Lumineers are back and pulsating with more dynamism than before.
During the intermingled Q&A session between Schultz and Marty Lennartz, Lennartz called The Lumineers’ sound “expansive in an intimate way,” a statement proven to be true both vocally and instrumentally throughout the 30-minute set. The drums thundered in the background and the keyboard on “Ophelia” came alive, all while Schultz’s voice carried well in tone and volume — it sounded as if his vocal chords were supported by an internal wind tunnel that pushed each word out with enough power to sail over the thickly textured tracks. Schultz joked about finally being able to afford microphones, a “luxury” that wasn’t always guaranteed in the band’s early days. But the then setback has granted him an advantage since he can now belt his vocals loud and clear, making The Lumineers the kind of band that sound even better live.
Aside from “Sleep on the Floor” and single “Ophelia,” the group performed the album’s title track “Cleopatra,” which showcased lyrics that cut deeper than past songs. Schultz sang, “I’d be your mistress just to have you around,” and of people who “Raise you up just to cut you down.” The short set ended with fan favorite “Stubborn Love,” which had the crowd clapping and singing along, enjoying familiarity as Schultz sang, “When we were young/Oh, oh we did enough.” Though it turns out they didn’t do enough after all, they’re ready for more.