Folk rock superstars the Lumineers are a rather agreeable lot. As evidenced by their packed concert Tuesday night at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, the Denver-based group makes the kind of pleasing music that sends people dancing, clapping, hugging and smiling.
But if there's one thing that can create some jagged edges in an otherwise pristine presentation, it's the current political climate.
In a widely-publicized move, the band announced last week it would donate the profits from this specific show to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas due to what the band sees as hostile attempts from the state's conservative government to take funds away from the women's healthcare provider. Social media was awash in predictably severe ranges of reactions to the announcement.
Some liberal-minded music fans who had previously laughed-off the group as a Mumford and Sons starter kit decided it was time to support the group that was supporting their cause, while more conservative fans, some who had already purchased tickets, threatened to tear them up in protest.
And, just a few songs into the night, after the group's ubiquitous smash hit "Ho, Hey," lead singer Wesley Schultz shared with the audience the pride he felt when his mother and wife took part in the recent womens march. The loud cheers that short tale elicited were quickly eclipsed when he explained further that, in his opinion, healthcare should be available for all women.
The appreciative applause swelled to a massive crescendo when the shaggy-haired Schultz reminded his crowd that the night's proceeds would be donated to Planned Parenthood. The cheers at that moment dwarfed those of the popular song they just finished by a mile.
The band members never grew indignant but they made their point clearly. Much of the night's music carried the same vibe: pleasant with a touch of grit.
And speaking of applause, the opening band, Kaleo, received more than its fair share. Throughout the duration of the Icelandic group's set, the rapt audience made the night feel more like a co-headline show than simply a Lumineers gig. Following up an impressive performance at last year's Untapped Festival in Dallas, it's impossible to believe these blues-loving fellows will be anyone's opener the next time they roll through town.
Back to the Lumineers: There's a bit of a formula at play in the band's catalog. Some tunes require only an acoustic guitar while others need a plugged-in electric guitar. Some tunes gallop with a full complement of drums; some only feature the pounding of a single kick drum. Some songs have more cello while others feature more piano.
But pretty much every song featured a heavy dose of jangly guitar mixed with an even heavier dose of thundering bass drum blasts. (See "Cleopatra," the electric, stomping title track of the group's 2015 record, or acoustic-based "Gun Song.")
Such cohesion was fine, if a bit predictable, and there were some breaks from that combo to lighten things up. With only a mandolin, cello and soft acoustic guitar strums, "Charlie Boy," the story of Schultz's uncle who died in Vietnam while serving in the military, was serene and showed the group in a pure form.
Staying true to their roots of small intimate shows, the entire band made its way through the crowd and up onto a platform in the middle of the 6,000-seat theater.
There, the Lumineers performed a couple of songs, including the jubilant "Where the Skies are Blue," within arm's reach of fans who thought they might barely be able to see the group originally. At various other points, Schultz sauntered around the theater, singing from almost every corner.
With the night's most raucous song, "Sleep on the Floor," and the chart-topping fan-favorite "Ophelia," the jangle and bass drum combo re-emerged, this time re-energizing the room in celebratory fashion.
It would be easy to simply label the group as hipster fluff in some respects, but Tuesday night offered evidence as to why that would be woefully misguided. The Lumineers, rather sneakily, offered a great deal of complexity.