It’s quite rewarding to grow up alongside up-and-coming bands and watch them develop an individual sound and/or stage presence if you are fortunate enough to see them perform in person. I like to use the word “graduate” when I describe bands taking that last relative leap to main stage performer—or in this case, arena headliner.
In a relatively short period of time and with only two full-length albums under its belt, indie folk band The Lumineers went from selling out small clubs to selling out entire arenas. It was only in 2012 the band performed at Sacramento’s premier venue Harlow’s in support of its self-titled debut album. And at long last, the Denver trio finally returned to California’s state capitol to headline last night’s (December 7) fifth annual Electric Christmas presented by local indie radio station Radio 94.7.
Last night’s sold-out winter concert was the second year it was hosted in the Golden 1 Center, Sacramento’s two-year-old downtown arena that is home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. It’s safe to say the new arena’s glitzy allure has encouraged a lot of top music acts to tour here.
In a big change from past years, Radio 94.7 cut the number of scheduled performers from five to three. Presumably, the change was to cram more songs into each setlist. In reality, the change was seemingly made to accommodate more individualized stage pieces that required longer setup times in between each performance (although house DJ Zephyr was there to keep the energy up during the gaps). While it was a bummer not hear a couple more acts, it was welcoming to see each band’s individual stage design and its relationship with the sound.
With indie rock quartet Walk the Moon, this meant a lot of light and color bombarding the stage. For music as upbeat and infectious as radio-friendly “Shut Up and Dance”, it made sense for the thousands of concertgoers to see lead vocalist Nicholas Petricca sing and dance across the entire stage.
With psychedelic rock band Portugal. The Man, this meant significantly less light on stage in order to better highlight the stunning visuals projected behind them. For mood, it worked perfectly to listen to the veteran rockers jam and mashup – I heard bits of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd – under a tie dye haze, albeit without the smoke.
But as an arena performance, it didn’t work so well to not see these musicians actually play on the dimly lit stage. Even lead singer John Baldwin Gourley mentioned his awe of the arena’s vast space, so it stands to reason the band should have tinkered its stage show a bit – what plays well in a small club sometimes doesn’t translate in a cavern.
To help get people in the holiday spirit, a Santa Claus roamed the arena taking Christmas wishes and handing out his own presents. And just before the final set, “Let It Snow” played while fake snow fell from the rafters. If that cooled the crowd a bit, The Lumineers went on stage to perform the musical equivalent of a warm blanket.
It’s not every day a folk band headlines an arena concert, but the indie folk trio enveloped the large crowd with calming, yet energetic tunes. Breakout hit “Ho Hey” grew into a quasi-campfire singalong, and “Ophelia” was a delight. During the encore, the band paid tribute to the late Tom Petty by covering “Walls (Circus)” before ending the night with a raucous rendition of “Stubborn Love.”
Leaving the arena afterwards, you could still hear people singing back what they had just heard. I think you can call that satisfying.
Photo credits: Tan the Man