The latest EP of The Lumineers features four songs from their past albums, performed on the last night of their tour in Milwaukee on 11th March 2020. This was the indie folk band’s last physical live concert before the pandemic forced any in-person gatherings to be suspended. Each of the four tracks shows different dynamics from their original album versions. Looking back from 2021, those familiar songs performed in a live stadium offer much comfort after a tumultuous year.
Through a concert which happened tens of thousands of miles away, we see the band’s growth and the audience’s ability to respond to that
Ophelia, originally the opener of The Lumineers’ 2016 album ‘Cleopatra’, is much less emotionally intense as a live recording. Yet through the rich acoustics delivered across time before we knew the full impact of the pandemic, an immersive experience is provided with chanting and sing-alongs of the namesake line from the audience is nothing but nostalgic. The lyrical story told in Ophelia seems to be transformed and becomes a conversation that not only exists in the instrumentals and lyrics, but also between the artists and the audience, and the listener of this EP a year after the concert. As a song that reflects the vocalist and writer Wesley Schultz’s personal journey of accommodating to stardom, Ophelia is more than suitable to be positioned as the opening song of the EP. Through a concert which happened tens of thousands of miles away, we see the band’s growth and the audience’s ability to respond to that.
My Cell was originally released on The Lumineers’ 2019 album ‘III’. Their new interpretation of the song remains unchanged: devastated and helpless. It is impressive how the drummer Jeremiah Fraites can open the song with seemingly nonchalant guitar that later proves to be deeply despondent. The oscillation between desolation and optimism in a bone-deep infatuation brought by romance, or a nonreciprocal love, is conveyed successfully through the vocalist’s sometimes preserved (and sometimes explosive) control of tones and the paradox of indifference and despair from the instrumentals. Like many of The Lumineers’ songs, My Cell adopts repetitive emphasis on the namesake lyric with accusative and repentant overtone. The band shows their agility in live environments to transplant the song’s rich emotional range from the more affectively condensed studio version.
Donna, also originally from ‘III’, is similarly a lyrical story about addiction to alcohol with additional personal undertones from the band. The lyrics and Schultz’s omniscient narration explores the inner escalation of an addict’s chaotic life. It shows how mundane details in a repressed domestic life can surge to explosive destructiveness in no time, in an all-understanding and empathetic tone. There’s no telling whether the repetitive ending “you sang it like hallelujah” bears religious piety or a burden of the omniscient about a tragic life. But maybe, the constantly transformative pendulum of affection in the acoustics has all the answers.
Compared to the original studio version, the live performance reduces part of the song’s intensiveness of bridging the emotional connection between the listener and the protagonist of the lyrical story
Gloria, also from ‘III’, is a more overt depiction of life around a person who struggles with alcohol addiction. Compared to the original studio version, the live performance reduces part of the song’s intensiveness of bridging the emotional connection between the listener and the protagonist of the lyrical story. In a way this version, much like the case in Ophelia, is more causal and dialogue-like, which may deliver the thematic essence of the songs more effective for their ballad-like nature.
The release of this EP offers The Lumineers’ loyal fans an auditory feast after a long and confusing year. Revisiting these classics of the band, by breaking the temporal and spatial barriers, also gives us an opportunity to ruminate on our own journey in the pandemic and how the songs have accompanied us through the year.
In-article images courtesy of @thelumineers via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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