It was clear from the outset of the show that Nashville quartet Judah & the Lion have very large ambitions. Forgoing the usual pre-show playlist, there was instead a spooky, ethereal backing track played as the stage was being prepared for the band. It grew increasingly more dramatic as show time drew nearer, and melded perfectly into the band’s explosive opening song.
You’d think a group featuring mandolin, banjo, and accordion players among its members would sound a little more rustic. While those sort of moments still pop up from time to time, there’s no denying that these guys are a 21st century act. The folksy earnestness of Mumford & Sons is countered with the polyglot approach of recent tourmates Twenty One Pilots, making for a concert full of exciting and unexpected twists.
A telling sign of the band’s multifaceted sound is the fact that they played two covers during this set: the melodramatic, soaring indie rocker “Mr. Brightside” (The Killers), and the joking, freewheeling hip-hop track “Booty Wurk” (T-Pain). The disparate influences combine into an act that’s at once majestic and unafraid to have a little fun. The band’s recent album title Folk-Hop and Roll accurately sums up what they’re going for.
Songs like “Suit and Tie” and “Stockholm” ruminate on past experiences while others like “Going to Mars” look toward the future. During the latter, lead singer Judah Akers dressed in an astronaut helmet and ventured out into the crowd to perform the triumphant chorus.
The band finished off with their big single “Take it All Back”, one of what will surely be many hits going forward. Fans won’t have to wait long for the band to return to Toronto; they’ll be back in town this summer with Jimmy Eat World and Incubus for what is sure to be another epic show.