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Lumineers make arena as intimate as possible

Assorted ramblings from the world of entertainment:

l Arenas weren’t made for fiddles and mandolins.

Normally, that isn’t a problem, because most of the Americana / neofolk / roots music acts that feature them can’t fill venues that size. (Don’t include modern county in that category — if there’s a fiddle in the mix, it’s buried under the electric guitar and a rap break).

Less than a decade ago, The Lumineers were playing for, at most, a couple hundred people in its first Cleveland gig at the Barking Spider. Saturday, the band appeared to be only a few hundred seats shy of selling out Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in support of its album “III.”

The success of its first single “Ho Hey,” which topped the rock and alternative charts and made it to No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2012, meant the Lumineers didn’t stay in Barking Spider-sized venues for long. The pop audience moved on, but rock and alternative success has continued with songs like “Gloria,” “Cleopatra” and “Ophelia,” and the band has ascended to the level reached by few of its musical peers.

Saturday’s show did a mostly effective job of making primarily acoustic music work in a building built for basketball and hockey.

Extending from the stage was a polygon shaped walkway, which brought the band, primarily founders Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, closer to the audience. Fraites’ drum kit popped out of the walkway at different times or he would accompany Schultz on just a kick drum and tambourine. For the song “Donna,” Fraites played an upright piano that came up from below the walkway.

The lanky, long-haired Schultz spent nearly as much time singing from the point of the walkway as he did from the main stage, and the band incorporated elements from the videos produced for “III” into the live show.

The show succeeds in a venue that size because The Lumineers’ music has an anthemic, aspirational swell like U2 and Mumford & Sons. Even the darker songs from “III” commanded attention, particularly “Jimmy Sparks.”

Surprisingly, the one element that didn’t work as well was the cover songs the band played. Early on, Schultz did a slowed-down cover of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” What makes the song so fun is the torrent of words flowing over that rollicking beat. It’s a like a car in danger of careening of the road at any minute. Slowing it down, even a little, sapped the energy from it.

And judging by the reaction when Schultz introduced the song, I wondered whether some of the band’s younger fans were familiar with the ’60s favorite. The reaction to Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy” was even more muted, despite Mt. Joy frontman Sam Cooper and J.S. Ondara joining Schultz on vocals. The arena’s acoustics muddied the lyrics, which didn’t help.

A second chance to catch the Lumineers happens Feb. 25, when the tour plays PPG Paints Arena.

l National theater tours are designed to deliver the same experience, regardless of what city they’re playing.

That won’t be the case when the latest version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” comes to Cleveland’s Playhouse Square next month. Instead addition to the 11-piece band performing on the tour, 22 additional musicians will join them and perform expanded arrangements of the songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

The musical that made its debut 50 years ago remains an audience favorite. NBC’s 2018 live production was a critical and commercial hit, and the musical return to London in 2017 won the Olivier Award (Britain’s version of the Tonys) for best musical revival.

The tour will play the Connor Palace on March 10 to 29. Tickets are on sale now through Playhouse Square.

l Bellwether is the latest Ohio music festival to announce its lineup this week.

The festival at Renaissance Park in Waynesville expands to the three-day event this year from Aug. 6 to 8 and will feature Nathaniel Rateliff, The Devil Makes Three, The Growlers, Shovels & Rope, The Lone Bellow, Scarypoolparty, Langhorne Slim, Hayes Carll, Waxahatchee, John Moreland, Cloud Nothings and more.

Three-day passes and additional information are available at www.bell wetherfest.com

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor for Ticket. Write to him at agray@

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