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Edward Sharpe and the
Magnetic Zeros
Webster Hall
July 22, 2010

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Susan Gurevich



Opposite Photo:
Nora Kirkpatrick of
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

On July 22 Webster Hall hosted one of the most odd, uneven, yet entertaining shows of the summer when Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros came through with Dawes in tow. Each band muddled through patches of rockiness before ultimately delivering memorable performances.

Dawes opened the show with a few numbers of lukewarm, competent, forgettable country that mostly relied on Taylor Goldsmith’s strong, coarse vocal to keep listener attention. Though technically a four-piece they sounded like far less than that as the drums were dull and restrained and the piano could have easily been lifted completely out without much loss. As the band shifted to a more rockist stance, however, the music filled out and came alive. Booming kick drums and crashing cymbals propelled the songs forward at a frantic pace with beats practically exploding from the drum kit. The keys gained new vitality with the heightened sense of urgency as well, sprinkling in sweet melodies among the pounding notes.

Where Dawes’ country offerings seemed devoid of life the blue collar rock songs were teeming with it. As such, their set was back-loaded hitting its apex with the final song: a cover of “With a Little Help from My Friends” aptly aided by three members of the Magnetic Zeros. The rendition was full of exuberant bombast setting a high bar for the rest of the evening.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

The second set was basically Magnetic Zero-hour as the backing band took the stage to perform songs written by contributor/pianist Aaron Embry under the name We Are Each Other. Embry’s voice is cleaner and sweeter than the Edward Sharpe vocal giving the songs a hint of innocence and even precociousness but otherwise the set was everything one would expect from this line-up. They played expertly and organically, moving together, effortlessly dancing through each tune with all the camaraderie of a happy episode of The Wonder Years. Especially touching was the presence of Embry’s wife Nikki and young daughter Mayla Ray on stage (hopefully clad in earplugs) with Nikki singing along and Mayla Ray accompanying on the wind chimes as if she were born to play them.


Alex Ebert of
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Jade Castrinos of
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Airin Older and Nico Aglietti of
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Christian Letts of
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

The band ran through the material smoothly and didn’t actually hit a hitch until the group took a break and came out again for its proper set. It started well enough with a spirited performance of “Janglia.” Many of the group’s songs are built for sing-alongs and this one immediately got the sold-out club shaking, jumping and shouting along with the chorus. It delivered on every ecstatic promise of the infectious album pulling the crowd into a tight, celebratory embrace.

The night’s challenge soon emerged in lead singer Alex Ebert. He began to take an oddly long time between songs to reload for the next, often with no interaction with the audience which made it difficult to carry momentum from one tune to the next. Stranger, though, were the times he went off-book mid-song. His occasional off-beat ad lib in the middle of a verse devolved into short, awkward monologues a few times over the course of the night and not even Jade Castrinos’ shy, coy mannerisms and wonderfully smoky backing vocal could fully distract from Ebert’s odd behavior. The Zeros, for their part, played these moments beautifully. As Ebert let go of the trapeze that were his songs to twist and flip in the air on his own, the band simply kept looping back until he could catch hold again.
And for all of the strange moments created by Ebert’s quirky mood, in those times he caught hold he was pure electricity. He was a force on stage; isolated in his own galaxy one moment and locking arms with every soul in the room the next. The hopeful yearning in his voice during “40 Day Dream” was echoed in every voice singing back to him and his soft delivery on “Carries On” mesmerized all ears even as he spurred them all into movement during the chorus.

The band’s album, Up from Below, offers warmth, familiarity and irrepressible youth; the band’s live show delivered each of these elements in spades. The joy in the songwriting is only rivaled by the joy in the performance and each song contains a burning desire to share that feeling with anyone who will listen. That sentiment was obvious in the group’s last three songs – one of the most memorable sequences of the year.

As the group dove into its hit, “Home,” fans – as was to be expected – began climbing on stage to dance along with one of the most heartfelt songs of the last few years. Unexpectedly, by the end of the song half of Webster Hall was on stage and was invited to stay there through the end of the set. Ebert then asked all in attendance to take a seat – no small request considering the amount of beer and liquor covered the floor at this point. Nevertheless the band went in to the gentle, bittersweet “Brothers” in a coffee house atmosphere among hundreds of seated concert-goers. The stillness in the room was almost complete behind Ebert’s cracked and shakily emotional delivery.

Finishing the set – among the standing, swaying, singing audience – the chorus of “Om Nashi Me” took on a particular significance. Amidst a slew of fans, whose seemed to evolve into more than that over the course of the night, the chant, “I will love you forever” echoed with particular sincerity. At some point in the song it became impossible to distinguish the crowd’s wail from the band’s as the two had merged to form a singular voice. The sight of Edward Sharpe and his magnificent Magnetic Zeros commiserating anyone who would linger long after the last notes had faded and the house lights came up tells me they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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