There’s something incredible about a concert at the Molson Amphitheatre in late July. The muggy heat transforms into a cool breeze as the sun sets, painting the sky with vivid orange and deep pink strokes. People file in holding cans of cider and soft-serve ice cream cones and spreading out blankets on the lawn. The CN Tower can be seen in the distance, lighting up in a dozen different colours and standing tall against the clouds and the city skyline. It’s something special – borderline magical, even. And it was the most perfect backdrop for The Lumineers.
You know those concerts that sneak up on you, the ones where you forget how excited you are for them until you’re actually there? This was one of them. I sat through the opening acts – Rayland Baxter and Langhorne Slim and the Law – and thoroughly enjoyed them, relishing in the feeling of the earth beneath my feet and thousands of other music lovers surrounding me. And then The Lumineers came out on stage (to ‘Chains’ by Fleetwood Mac, no less) and I felt like I was going to die. My heart was overflowing with joy and love and awe, and all of that came rushing in at once, and I knew that it was going to be the most perfect thing I had witnessed in a while.
The bands’ latest album, Ophelia, was released at a time when I really needed a good, emotional album. And that’s exactly what it is. I connected with every song almost immediately, and I listened to it on repeat for at least a month, if not more. ‘Sleep on the Floor’ is the track off the album that attached itself to my heart, and when the first chords wafted through the speakers only seconds after the band graced the crowd with its presence, I felt like I was soaring. My eyes welled up almost instantly and I fought to hold back tears. But I couldn’t hold them in, not when this band that means so much to me was playing a song that helped me through one of the hardest things I remember going through. Not when lead singer Wesley Schultz was singing “I was not born to drown” and I was yelling the lyrics back to him along with the rest of the crowd. It was the most incredible introduction I could have ever asked for. Everything after that was just a wonderful bonus.
The Lumineers went on to play ‘Ophelia,’ ‘Flowers in Your Hair,’ and ‘Ho Hey.’ They’re really one of the only folk bands whose music I feel connected to, and each of the tracks washed over me, leaving goosebumps and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and of happiness. I felt so alive and so full simply because of the fact that I was there and I was witnessing this and it was so indescribably beautiful. After ‘Ho Hey,’ we were all asked to put away our phones, and, somewhat miraculously, I listened. I shoved my phone in my pocket and raised my hands in the air instead and I spent the rest of the show basking in the most incredible music. I felt free.
It started to get overwhelmingly good when they played ‘Classy Girls.’ There was a group of teenage boys in front of us with their arms around each other, and they were belting out the lyrics as if their lives depended on it. They looked like they were having the time of their lives – I think we all did – and I’m pretty convinced that if I had asked to join in, they would have welcomed me with open arms. Four girls next to us were dancing around, free of all inhibitions and worries. Everyone was fully into it by now, all of us immersed in this moment, never really wanting to leave. I think I probably should have wished to live in that concert forever.
And then they started to play ‘Dead Sea.’ Someone I was best friends with used to put it on playlists for me, and I would do the same for her. For a while, that song represented a lot. And then that relationship crumbled in an awful way. After that, the song meant nothing to me, but it hurt a little to hear it, and I didn’t listen to it for ages. When they began playing it I didn’t really know how to feel. And then everything melted away, and I had a sort of revelation in realizing that I’m my own damn dead sea. I’m the only person who’s always going to show up for myself, the only one I can fully depend on. And if that’s not an empowering realization, then I don’t know what is. It was the kind of moment that makes you believe that music is the closest thing we can ever have to real magic. Or maybe it is real magic.
The band played a few more songs and spent a lot of time dancing around stage, interacting with each other adorably, and even playing a couple songs on a small stage in the middle of the crowd before banging out a beautiful version of ‘Submarines.’ They then transitioned into ‘Gun Song,’ which is another one of my absolute favourites. It’s one of those songs that has the best bridge ever, and when we got to that part I put my hands in the air like some sort of gospel singer and sang the lyrics with everything I had in me.
After that I knew we were getting to the end, and I could feel a sinking feeling in my stomach, the kind that you get only when you realize an incredible concert is almost over. They played ‘Angela’ and ‘Big Parade’ and ‘My Eyes,’ before leaving Jeremiah on stage to make magic come through his fingers and into a piano. And I swear to you that the perfect simplicity of ‘Patience,’ the peace and calm that it brings to my soul and the way it feels like its running through my veins almost made my heart burst at the seams with joy.
The encore came almost too quickly. I think I silently willed time to pass slower and slower so that I could stay there longer and longer. They played an extended, emotional version of ‘Long Way From Home,’ as well as ‘Scotland’ and ‘In The Light.’ That last one burned slow and honest, and it felt raw and incredible. Their very last song was, to the delight of the crowd, ‘Stubborn Love.’ There was a loud, simultaneous exclamation of joy, and I’m almost positive that a guy standing a few feet behind me who had spent five solid minutes asking for that very song thought that he was the only reason they played it. The band worked the crowd with ease, leading us all in a perfect sing along before leaving us glowing and satisfied and also wishing for a little bit more.
The Lumineers are made of something special. I’ve spent the three days since the concert listening to their music on repeat and singing (yelling, more like) their most relevant lyrics at the top of my lungs. I feel a little freer, a little more weightless, and so, so full of joy. I will never understand how bands as good as The Lumineers exist or how they’re able to inject fifteen thousand people with enough love and light to last a lifetime, but I am so incredibly happy that they do, and that they came around in my lifetime.