September 20, 2013

Set against the beautiful city skyline at the America’s Cup Pavilion, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros played to a small audience on a cool Friday night. Within three songs, lead singer Alex Ebert was already deep into the crowd, holding hands with fans who couldn’t put down their iPhones to get a picture of him up close and personal. As always, the Magnetic Zeros didn’t have a setlist, which makes for a far more engaging concert experience, as the band takes requests and goes with “whatever feels right.” Unfortunately, this created some hiccups in the show, as the band didn’t always want to play the requested song. Alas, the show carried on strong, with the band performing songs off all three of their albums. The crowd asked for an interesting mix favorites, ranging from “Om Nashi Me” (which didn’t get picked), to “Life is Hard” (from their latest album - another song that the band didn’t play.) 

Compared to previous shows of theirs, this past weekend’s was a bit subpar. Had I not seen them before, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it, but frontman Alex Ebert was a bit off his a-game this Friday. The rest of the band was on point, very tight, and in sync. Alex told the crowd he was recovering from a cold, but it seemed he had taken a bit too much medicine and wasn’t fully there. The real highlights of the show were not his expert frontmanship; instead, they were the other band members. Fresh off recording his solo album, guitarist Christian Letts dedicated one of his new songs to his mother. Later on, drummer Christopher ‘Crash’ Richard, made his way to the front of the stage to sing “Motion Animal.” In my now fourth time seeing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, I had never heard Crash sing before. Crash’s falsetto voice charmed the crowd and won him an applause just as loud, if not louder, than the rest of the songs.

Don’t get me wrong, the show was delightful, but something was a little off. Maybe it was the relatively empty venue, maybe it was Ebert’s excessive “cold medicine,” maybe I’m just plain wrong - but I didn’t leave blown away like I had the previous three times. The twelve person ensemble commands a massive presence on stage, which manages to amaze most first-timers at the show. As Ebert describes them, they’re a live band, and their live performance is damn good. Consistent touring since 2009 has gotten the Magnetic Zeros to a point where the musicians trust each other and are able to pull off successful shows time and time again. They prove themselves every night to be one of the most fun live acts to see, fulfilling not only my requirement of good music, but also of audience interaction. The band really knows how to work a crowd, a fact obvious by the pit’s non stop dancing, feet tapping and overall smile-on-your-face silliness. 

The end of the tour came at the perfect time. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ self titled third album was released in July and the band has been all over the country supporting it, including five shows at Mumford & Sons “Gentlemen of the Road” festivals. With the plug being pulled promptly at 11, Alex announced “you know what song we gotta sing,” and motioned for the whole band to come to the front of the stage, switching from electric guitars to acoustic. Both the crowd and the band put their arms around each other and swayed from side to side, singing together the Bill Withers classic “Lean on Me.” It was a beautiful ending to the night. 

Photos by Sam Engel / Senior Staff