The Lumineers – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall, David Schuster

The Lumineers – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall (3)

By David Schuster, July 2023

For a venue that’s been hosting major music events for just five years, the Piece Hall has excelled itself this summer, welcoming stadium filling names into its (relatively speaking) intimate 5,500 capacity surroundings. A line-up that has included Queens of The Stone Age, James, Rag’n’Bone Man, and tonight, The Lumineers.

Unfortunately, about two hours before they take to the stage, the heavens open. Thunder, lightning, and rain of biblical proportions emanate from clouds as black as coal sacks. My wife and I look at each other, then back to the deluge, which the windscreen wipers are struggling to cope with. I’m thankful that, having lived through a fair few unpredictable English summers, we’ve brought some deeply unfashionable plastic ponchos. Then, somewhat miraculously, just as we drop into Halifax, the skies swiftly clear to blue. The majestic yellow sandstone spire of the Square Chapel, towering behind, glows golden in the soft evening light. The omens are on for a great gig!

‘Brightside’ is the perfect choice of opening track, as it epitomises the band’s solidly American folk-rock sound. It also skilfully introduces the two co-founders: Jeremiah Fraites, wearing his signature white t-shirt, pork pie hat and black braces, pounding out their distinctive drum sound, and Wesley Schultz, frontman, on guitar and vocals. The song comes from their last album, 2022’s critically acclaimed release of the same name. The band may have turned eighteen this year, but since 2005 have released a modest four studio records, proving that quality triumphs over quantity. Happily, this also means that if you have a favourite Lumineers track, it’s very likely to get played.

The Lumineers – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall (1)

“Co-ordinated singalong”

Next, they swing straight into the upbeat, foot stomping, ‘Cleopatra’, followed by ‘Ho Hey’, which rounds off a trio designed to start the show with a bang. This is by far their best-known track, and greatest commercial success, spending a total of 18 weeks at the top of the Billboard Rock chart. It’s an opening salvo that works a treat, the enthusiastic fans shouting the grito, (a Mexican word meaning a shouted interjection in a song. Yes, I had to look that up.) and punching the air in time.

Lumineers numbers are made for audience participation, and this carries through to ‘Angela’, which produces a sea of arms held aloft, clapping. Schultz takes this one step further in the rendition of ‘A.M. Radio’. Generously, he invites Abraham Alexander and his band, the support act, back, before encouraging the crowd through a co-ordinated singalong of the chorus.

One of the downsides of mid-summer gigs used to be the lack of atmospheric lighting, rendered useless by the sunlight. Happily, technology has now overcome this. At the back is a huge LED screen, pin sharp even in the low evening sun. Cleverly controlled, this imagery is a powerful tool to enhance the stories told by the lyrics. ‘Brightside’ is accompanied by scenes of huge desert skies and dusty roadside diners, perfectly placing the group’s sound firmly in the category of Americana; country, gospel, blues, and good ol’ rock and roll.

It’s always interesting to hear at first-hand the origins of a song. It makes ‘Where We Are’, with its strong vocal hook, “Where we are. I don’t know where we are, but it will be okay”, far more meaningful to know that it was written by the singer, following a traumatic car accident. The car flipped three times, but fortunately, he and his wife escaped unhurt. However, the frontman goes on to explain that it’s also a metaphor for the need to cling to the belief that things will improve, especially when times are hard.

The Lumineers – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall (2)

“Effortless flexibility”

The show employs some very skilful staging. As well as the usual main performance area, there’s a runway which curves out into the crowd, getting a lot more people closer to the action than the usual layout. It’s not just for vocalist either, all the performers use this to great effect. There’s a riser built into it, on which a drum kit appears and disappears, allowing Fraites to also take his turn at the front. Given that the two co-founders are accompanied by four other musicians, all of whom are multi-instrumentalists, this apparently effortless flexibility requires an admirable gang of stagehands running backwards and forwards throughout, making sure the right instrument is in the right hands, at the right time. It’s worth it; there’s a couple of truly memorable moments where the entire group perform in a cluster at the end of the runway.

It’s a pleasure to watch artists who clearly enjoy playing together. As well as the two founding members, there are four regular touring members of the band. All are talented multi-instrumentalists. Lauren Jacobson’s sawing country style fiddle playing provides the backbone to ‘Flowers in Your Hair’, and many of the other tunes, but who also doubles on piano and vocals. The irrepressible Stelth Ulvang, standing barefoot on top of his piano, when he’s not hammering at the keys, and who at one-point, slides full length down the runway. Brandon Miller, who augments the group’s distinctive bass drum sound on percussion, and who also plays mandolin. There’s a striking section during ‘Ho Hey’, where Schultz, Fraites, Miller and bassist Byron Isaacs are all playing together, front of house.

Along with so many other beautiful and ancient buildings, the Piece Hall was almost demolished by over-zealous town planners in the 1970’s. Thankfully, it was saved and, even though it’s coming up for 250 years old and wasn’t designed as auditorium, it’s a fantastic venue. Built on a hill, like much of Halifax, the central courtyard slopes towards the stage, giving the majority of the crowd an excellent view. The acoustics too are top notch. I don’t know how the sound engineers have done it, but there’s no appreciable reverberation off the picturesque colonnaded buildings that enclose the performance space.

The Lumineers – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall (4)


The Lumineers’ music is characterised by toe tapping, strong and simple rhythms, contrasted with lyrics that convey a poignancy for that which has been lost or might have been. This recipe comes together perfectly with the projected imagery for ‘Gloria’. With its themes of celebrity and alcoholism, the stylised visuals of beer endlessly pouring into a glass underline the message powerfully.

The singer pauses at the end of ‘Gloria’ to thank us all for making the effort to attend live concerts again, after the disastrous pandemic years. It’s a heartfelt gesture from the point of view of a musician. It’s also worth remembering that the Piece Hall costs around £13,000 per day to maintain and run. It’s large-scale events such as these that make the maintenance of such treasures viable. It’s a truism, but we use them or lose them.

The set spans a full set of 18 numbers, all played with passion and feeling, and received ecstatically by the audience, concluding with the celebratory ‘Big Parade’, during which the frontman dances across the stage with his guitar.

After a short break, there’s an equally well received encore of no less than five tracks. This starts with a stripped back version of ‘Donna’. Schultz sits on an upright piano, played by Fraites. By now, darkness has fallen, and a single spotlight picks them out, giving the performance a uniquely private feeling. The rest of the ensemble return for ‘Submarines’, ‘Remington’ and ‘Reprise’ which, as the name suggests, draws on but re-works ‘Brightside’.

They close with a beautiful rendition of ‘Stubborn Love’. This is the Lumineers at their best, swirling violin, acoustic guitar, clapped beat and sing-along chorus. It fades, almost to silence, before everyone throws themselves into a joyous final chorus. Quite by chance, someone sets off a firework display on the darkness of Beacon Hill, which looms black over the venue. That sums up the whole evening; magical.

images: Cuffe & Taylor / The Piece Hall


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.