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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Looking on the ‘BRIGHTSIDE’ with The Lumineers at Bridgestone Arena

The Lumineers’ performance was emotionally charged, intimate and deeply personal. The band makes more than good music—they make soundtracks for life.
Arianna Santiago
The Lumineers bring “BRIGHTSIDE” to life at Bridgestone Arena, as photographed on Sept. 1, 2022. (Huster Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)

When I was 11 years old, I downloaded the entire Lumineers album onto my first iPod nano. 

The Lumineers have been a musical constant in my life. When I was 12, I listened to “Ho Hey” when I would feel homesick at summer camp. When I was 13, I played “Ophelia” on repeat on my first iPhone. In high school, my little sister and I listened to “Flowers in Your Hair” while driving to school. The first album I ever bought on vinyl was The Lumineers’ second album “Cleopatra.” 

Driving along the winding roads on our way to hike outside Charlottesville, Virginia, my family sang along to The Lumineers. On a lazy Sunday morning, The Lumineers played throughout the house. The Lumineers have held the #1 spot in my Spotify wrapped for three years and counting. 

To say I was excited to be among the thousands of Nashvillians in line at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night is an understatement. The group first released their eponymous album “The Lumineers” in 2012, when I was 11. Now, a few days after my 21st birthday, I got to see them in person. 

I arrived at Bridgestone just in time to see British singer-songwriter and Grammy nominee James Bay take the stage. I sent a string of texts in all-caps to my mom, who might be the biggest James Bay fan I know. Bay performed hits like “Hold Back The River,” “Craving” and “Let it Be” to the largest audience I’d ever seen for an opener. Bay’s stage presence was humble; he thanked the crowd for singing along and encouraged them to celebrate music however they knew how.

“If you don’t know the words,” Bay called out to the crowd, “sing whatever you want to sing.” 

Before I knew it, I was singing every word (thanks, Mom) and making up the words I didn’t know with the rest of the audience. 

The audience was buzzing before The Lumineers even took the stage. 

“Have you ever seen them before?” an older couple asked me. “Do you think they’re going to play Ophelia?” a little girl asked her mom, who was lifting her up to see the stage. 

From the second The Lumineers took the stage, I was reminded of how talented and versatile the indie rock band’s members are. Each played several instruments, ranging from piano to violin to accordion in what seemed like a game of musical chairs. Co-founding member Wesley Shultz took the lead on vocals and guitar while other co-founder Jeremiah Fraites moved constantly between three drum kits, a guitar and a piano. The six-member ensemble also included Brandon Miller, Stealth Ulvang, Byron Isaacs and violinist Lauren Jacobson. The set design was breathtaking, featuring projection screens, an art piece reminiscent of keys on a piano and string lights woven between instruments. 

James Bay and Luke Bullard play a riff-off at Bridgestone Arena, as photographed on Sep. 1, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)
James Bay and Luke Bullard play a riff-off at Bridgestone Arena, as photographed on Sep. 1, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago) (Arianna Santiago)

The main lights that illuminated Bridgestone were visible on stage, providing a sense of intimacy between The Lumineers and their audience and highlighting their back-to-basics musical approach. With pianos, drums and violin solos accompanying a beautiful video and lighting display, the show was as much of a work of art as it was a concert. 

The crowd at Bridgestone erupted as they heard the first notes of “Ho Hey,” with every fan in the arena singing every word at the top of their lungs. Despite the tens of thousands of fans packed together in Bridgestone Arena, the group managed to foster a sense of community among a room of strangers. With pounding drums, a guitar melody and a call-and-response from the audience, the band led into their smash-hit “Cleopatra”the title track from the band’s classic second album. 

Though the set only lasted two hours, it felt like they could go another two and every member of the audience would have stayed to watch. While the BRIGHTSIDE tour aimed to highlight songs from the group’s latest album, they covered hits from their entire discography. The crowd sang along to “Angela,” “Flowers in Your Hair” and “Sleep on the Floor,” as well as every song from their new album. The Lumineers also worked in a nod to the Stones by weaving “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” into their song “Leader of the Landslide.” 

Heart-pounding and hand-clapping are guaranteed at just about any concert, but The Lumineers didn’t put on just any concert. Every one of their performances had me thinking “this was their best song of the night” only to be proven wrong and blown away by the song that followed.

Along the two-hour journey, Shultz spoke to the crowd about the absolute joy he felt to be able to perform again after the pandemic and his gratitude for a continuously supportive audience. 

“When we started, we were just playing people’s living rooms and little coffeehouses,” Schultz told the crowd with a smile, “and now you all are selling out arenas.”

Schultz took the time to explain the origins of more than a few songs before performing them. Before The Lumineers performed “Where We Are” from BRIGHTSIDE, Schultz told the story of the car crash behind the song. He explained that he and his wife had been driving in the rain when their car had hydroplaned and flipped over. He said other drivers ran to their car sobbing, expecting to find two people dead in the car. Shocked to be alive, Schultz and his wife were “leaning up against the side of the car, laughing and smoking cigarettes, covered in blood.” The song takes listeners on a journey from staring up at the sky to crashing cars on Arizona highways. 

Schultz told the audience that the song feels like what everyone has been through these past few years, reflecting on the isolating and joyless pandemic era. Before performing “WHERE WE ARE,” Schultz reassured the audience with lyrics from the song, “I don’t know where we are, but it will be okay.”

 In contrast to traditional popular performers at Bridgestone Arena, The Lumineers’ performance was emotionally charged, intimate and deeply personal. The group seemed more like best friends than co-performers. They ran on stage barefoot, hugged each other in the dark after every song and threw leftover confetti at each other. The barefoot piano player, the smiling violinist, the ecstatic bass player— all were full of joy and energy. They were proud to be a live band again, proud to be doing what they do best. 

James Bay serenades the crowd at Bridgestone Arena, as photographed on Sep. 1, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)
James Bay serenades the crowd at Bridgestone Arena, as photographed on Sep. 1, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)

Every interaction left the audience feeling warm inside. At the end of the show, a giant group hug with every member of the band had the audience grinning. 

The Lumineers write songs for everyone; the lonely teenager, the young romantics, the nostalgic mother-of-three. Over 20,000 audience members sang along with me to the songs, our voices uniting and melting pain and hurt and sadness. Fellow concertgoers sang “Ho Hey” at the top of their lungs as they descended the escalators to the parking lots, displaying a sense of togetherness that resonated with fans long after the concert was over. 

The Lumineers make more than good music—they make soundtracks for life. For those going through heartbreak to those falling in love and everything in between, The Lumineers have a song for you. Some audience members showed up alone and others came with their best friends. There was a teenager wearing fishnets behind me and a mom of three sitting next to me. Everyone was on their feet by the end of the night; even the event staff and volunteers were dancing and smiling along. I saw two event volunteers grab each other’s hands and burst into dance. Good music has no age limit or life experience required to enjoy it. 

After this night, there’s no doubt that The Lumineers will reprise their spot as #1 on my Spotify wrapped again this year. As I watched the performance, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my family and all the moments that The Lumineers’ music made whole. The band wrote soundtracks to my family road trips, my adolescence and my first time moving away from home. They narrated my feelings of homesickness, guilt, love and heartbreak as I experienced them for the first time. 

As a writer, I’m very rarely at a loss for words. But when I heard my favorite group sing live after 10 years of loving their music, there were times when I was speechless. So I stood there and sang my heart out because with The Lumineers, I can’t help but look on the “BRIGHTSIDE.” 

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About the Contributors
Zoe Abel
Zoe Abel, Former Opinion Editor
Zoe Abel (‘24) is from Washington, D.C., and is a student in the College of Arts and Science. She is majoring in medicine, health and society and child development with minors in biology and French on the pre-med track. In her free time, Zoe loves distance running, good music, coffee and telling terrible dad jokes. She is also an avid Oxford comma advocate. You can reach her at [email protected].  
Arianna Santiago
Arianna Santiago, Senior Staff Photographer
Arianna Santiago ('24) is from Bremerton, Wash., and studying electrical and computer engineering in the School of Engineering. When not shooting for The Hustler or for freelance work, Arianna can be found leading campus tours, organizing events for University Catholic, attempting to study and procrastinating her lab reports. You can reach her at [email protected].
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Lynn R.
1 year ago

I don’t usually read concert reviews (because I’m an older gal far removed from the pop culture scene), but this one brought a smile to my face. I have similar memories of listening to The Lumineers with my own daughters & now granddaughters. Well done!