Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have one volume: really damn loud. Opening their show Tuesday night at the 9:30 Club with “40 Day Dream,” their song choice, sound, and energy matched that which most bands save for an encore or closing show number. The crowd didn’t need any warming up and jumped right in to yelling out lyrics, dancing, and flailing their bodies around, as though possessed by spirits. Despite front man Alex Ebert persistently complaining that he was tired, the band and the audience somehow managed to maintain a consistent volume and energy throughout the evening.
While their music lacks the complexity that would warrant the plethora of musicians on stage to play intricate parts—there were twelve (including TWO drum sets)—they use their manpower to produce a constant wall of joyous sound. Much of the audience seemed pleased with the din, reacting to the sheer wattage of what was coming off the stage, equating “loud” with “the best rock show ever.” However, the constant high volume and inability to correctly balance instruments with vocals led to Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos shouting into the microphone throughout the show, much of the lyrics became indiscernible. In fact, each of the twelve musicians on stage had a microphone for group vocals, leading to a fun, inclusive effect, although far from tight or accurate.
Early on in the set a girl in the front of the pit captured Ebert’s attention and showed him a picture on her cell phone. He looked at the phone, momentarily puzzled before saying, “I put my head up your shirt? You’ve got to send that to me, that’s a great pic.” If the band’s vivacity hadn’t already let the audience know they were in for a wild show, they certainly knew now.
Ebert called out a song, and then shook it off, saying, “Let’s play ‘Awake My Body’ so I can wake up,” alerting the crowd to the fact that there was no set list, the band would just play whatever Ebert felt like in the moment. They began the song with a slow reggae beat, Ebert singing, “Hey mama, hey mama, hey.” The jam continued on for at least fifteen minutes, Ebert sitting on the floor while band members played solos over the beat. The song sped up, taking on a rag time reel as Ebert got up to dance around, then slowed back down into trumpet and drum solos before finally returning to the chorus. Continuing on, the band played through “Man on Fire,” “Up From Below,” and “Truth,” as well as a couple new songs, announcing before one entitled “If You Want,” that “this song is not on any album, so enjoy it while it lasts.”
And then it began to get late.
As Sharpe and his Zeroes worked their way through “I Love My God,” and “Child,” those who frequent a good amount of concerts realized that it was getting to be long past encore time and wondered when the break would come. Finally, the band played “Home,” their biggest hit and the single song many in the audience had come to see. Anyone familiar with the typical flow of concerts would assume that would be it—the band would play their big hit, break, and be called back up for an encore. Nope.
As the people who came only to see the band play “Home” cleared out, the band continued on, playing yet louder through two more songs. Then, as the remaining audience began to question if the rapture would ever end, Ebert informed us that the 9:30 Club has told them fifteen minutes ago that they had to wrap it up, but they “feel weird not doing an encore.”
As evidenced throughout the show, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are highly devoted to making sure his fans have a fun, even spiritually-uplifting concert experience. In case you’re not familiar with Alex Ebert—aka Edward Sharpe—he clearly fancies himself a messiah character. The name “Edward Sharpe” comes from a book that Ebert penned about a man sent to earth “to heal and save mankind…he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love.” Ebert’s hair and beard are reminiscent of a disheveled, just-rolled-out-of-bed Jesus, his oversized thermal shirt draped over him like pajamas.
For the final number of the evening, Ebert/Sharpe/Jesus descended into the crowd to be amongst his people. He requested that the crowd sit on the floor of the 9:30 Club, assuring us that it’s “not that dirty.” As anyone who’s seen the floor after a show or has put a beer bottle onto it during one knows that that’s probably a lie, but nevertheless, everyone took a seat or knee, surrounding Ebert while the band continued to play from the stage. As the music finally came to a triumphant close and the band left the stage, Ebert hung around for a bit, slowly exiting, reaching his hands out to his disciples and basking in compliments of enamored fans along the way.