Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ Roseland Ballroom 5.9.12
by Cara McGrath (Graphic Design), published May 14th 2012
I’ll be honest and admit that the first time I heard “Home,” it was not sung Alexander and Jade of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. No, rather, a little girl and her father performed the song in what would soon become a viral YouTube video. Intrigued by the poetic lyrics, I looked into Edward Sharpe and took quite a liking to the band’s debut album Up From Below. So when, more than a year later, I heard that the band was on tour, I knew it would be worth the train ride into New York City to see them.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros played two back-to-back nights at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan. The headliner was supported by Fool’s Gold, a band from Los Angeles who kicked off the evening with a five-minute intro-jam preceding their first song. Most impressive was the quick, clean picking exhibited by both guitarists.
What Fool’s Gold lacked in stage presence and personality was far more than made up for by the crowd-interaction of Alexander Ebert and the sheer likability of Jade Castrinos during a two-hour-long set by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. I’ll be blunt – the barefooted front man appeared as though he had not showered in about a week, but that was no matter. Continually throughout the show, Alex held fans’ hands, danced in the crowd, conversed with the sea of people before him, and once, even passed the microphone into the audience. The instruments and back-up vocals of the many band members (the number falling in the double digits) truly complemented Alexander’s stirring voice. Lead female vocalist Jade seemed to sing much more in concert than on the band’s recorded tracks. Extensively hearing her unique voice – especially alongside Alex’s – turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of the evening.
Alexander made it clear that the “set list thing” was not quite his style, so he mostly based the course of the show on fans’ requests. Although I am a fan of the band, they performed many songs that I had never previously heard. I expected to experience the majority of Up From Below, seeing as it is the band’s only full-length album to date. However, what the crowd received was a just sampling of songs from the band’s debut album, (“Carries On,” “Up From Below”) along with a few tunes from Alexander’s solo side project, (“Truth,” “Awake My Body”) and several new songs from the upcoming album, Here (“Man on Fire,” “That’s What’s Up.”) While I was not familiar with the entire set, I was not at all disappointed. I am now more interested in Alexander’s solo project and eager to purchase Here, which will be released May 29.
“That’s What’s Up,” the first single off of Here, was the highlight of the show. It arrived after several jam sessions that, frankly, were far too long and reoccurring to remain totally enjoyable. But when Jade came up front and sat down next to Alex, the pair became completely engulfed in one another as they sang together. They put on a charming little sit down act: they gazed into each others’ eyes, pretended to be riding in a car, and simultaneously crossed and uncrossed their legs to the beat of the drums. There was indescribable energy between them as they sang, “We’ve been best friends forever darling, that’s what’s up… You’ve got my love to lean on darling no matter what!” Although they played up the performance, it was clear that the words were genuine.
As I would have predicted, “Home” seemed to be the big finale. But just before the band could leave the stage, Alex hopped down, entered the crowd, walked about 20 feet in, and planted himself on the floor. He invited everyone around him to join him on the ground for one final song. Despite the fact that I was kneeling in stale beer, it was unlike anything I had previously experienced at a concert, and something I will never forget.
Overall, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros put on a great show. Having so many people in one band may seem excessive, but with the skill at which they played their (sometimes obscure) instruments, it was evident that every person on stage was there for a reason. As mentioned, I found issue in the extensive jam sessions that they consistently resorted to. It often felt as though they were teasing the crowd or were simply dragging out songs for up to twenty minutes. However, I suppose this should have been expected since every band member deserves to receive his or her share of the spot light.