The Lumineers with special guest James Bay at the Santa Barbara Bowl on September 12, 2023 | Photo: Ingrid Bostrom

It would be an understatement to say that the Lumineers shined brightly at the Santa Barbara Bowl this week. They didn’t just shine — they sparkled.

The energy, joy, and enthusiasm they brought to their show were so infectious, I’d dare anyone in that audience to try not to smile as band members jumped into the crowd, sang their way up the very, very tippy-top of the amphitheater, ran barefoot up the rafters (and atop the piano in one case), and literally laid their bodies down while performing on an extended stage platform. 

All of that extroverted eagerness in the name of making a connection with the crowd is tough to resist — I certainly didn’t. 

From the moment founding member Jeremiah Fraites and his drum set rose up from the ground onto a stage extension that curved into the pit, catwalk style, I was hooked by the energy of this band, as well as the musical mix of alt/indie-folk, rock, and Americana. 

Stelth Ulvang with the Lumineers at the Santa Barbara Bowl on September 12, 2023 | Photo: Ingrid Bostrom

They didn’t hold back on playing their hits on either of their two-night sets in Santa Barbara. First up on Tuesday was “Cleopatra,” the title track from their 2016 album, based on an old lady taxi driver and her tales of lost love. That was followed by “Flowers in Your Hair,” from 2012, and then the song that just about everybody knows even if they don’t follow the Lumineers’ music: their 2012 hit “Ho Hey,” the song that put the band on the map as their first top-five single. 

It’s also the song where the multi-instrumentalist, whirling dervish of a performer Stelth Ulvang chucked his shoes off of his feet (Look, ma, no hands!) from the catwalk stage and directly over the crowd into the hands of a waiting roadie. Apparently this is a “thing” that he does, and it definitely gets people pumped. All night long, he was so much fun to watch; from playing the piano standing up, and then jumping up atop it and flailing his legs around, to running up onto the stone walls of the Bowl (still barefoot), he was always doing something to entertain us.

Lead singer and founding member Wesley Schultz is also no slouch when it comes to charismatic energy. In fact, the entire band — including Byron Isaacs on bass, guitar, and backing vocals; Brandon Miller on guitar, mandolin, and percussion; and Lauren Jacobson on strings, piano, and vocals — exudes the kind of back-slapping, hand-clapping, rowdy shouting, hyped-up gusto that’s hard to resist. 

Despite the large-ish venue, there’s a bar band connected vibe to the Lumineers that definitely gets the crowd going. We were on our feet for most of the show, with all of our familiar favorite songs on the playlist. These included “A.M. Radio,” “Angela,” “Gloria,” “Ophelia,” “Flapper Girl” (they definitely have a penchant for women’s names as titles), and the 2022 song “Where We Are,” which Schultz said was inspired by his involvement in a rollover car accident in Flagstaff, Arizona, and “then it became about being isolated during the pandemic and something bigger for a lot of us.”  

Schultz expressed his appreciation to the crowd multiple times throughout the night, as well as a sincere gratitude just to be able to play live music once again. They ended the show with the old title “Stubborn Love,” a sad but optimistic song about forgiveness and second chances. It was the kind of night that makes you feel grateful for all of those things and more.


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