Words by Arye Dworken
What’s Been Said: “Ask anyone who’s held hands with a stranger or danced barefoot in the front row at an Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros gig: The 10-piece folk-rock ensemble’s shows are more like shamanistic tent revivals than rock concerts.” – Rolling Stone
“Even the Babylonians probably wouldn’t have grokked singer Alex Ebert’s math theory: ‘0 is magnetic, and 4 + 3 might equal 1 or 2.5, depending on the magnitude of 0.’ Lucky for Ebert, the absolute value of his psychedelic folk pop is much easier to calculate. Filled out by musicians, including trumpet and conga players, the 13 songs on the troupe’s effervescent debut Up From Below add up to |a|wesome.” – Wired
“Alex Ebert and his band hark back to a carefree age of patchouli and bell-bottoms on their debut. This is intoxicating psych-indie for heady days in unbroken sunshine.” – Guardian UK
“There is also something unmistakably now about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. If you threw Kings of Leon, Scissor Sisters and Arcade Fire into a blender, this–with an obligatory shot of wheatgrass–is exactly what you would get in your musical glass.” – The Independent
Our Take: This past Sunday night, Alex Ebert brought his alter ego Edward Sharpe to town along with a dozen Magnetic Zeros to promote their hopelessly retro debut Up From Below. Standing at the forefront of the stage throughout the performance–bearded, shirtless and shoeless–Ebert led his brigade of merrymen boasting an otherworldly charisma, an amalgamation of George Harrison’s zen disposition and Charles Manson’s maniacal energy. It’s not hard to see the similarities between this band and the hippie cults of yore, harmlessly happy and almost out of date in their warmth. Half-way through the show, Ebert even lamented that the Music Hall’s stage was too high thus distancing himself from the audience. “I used to be into this rock and roll stuff,” he said, “but now I just want to be down there with you.”
The Jesus-lookalike was referencing his old band Ima Robot, an L.A.-based new wave act who released two records to mainstream indifference. The new stuff could not be further from sounding like scenester rock. Edward Sharpe’s songs are euphoric and celebratory, schtick-free and old-fashioned. There have been comparisons made online to Polyphonic Spree or Arcade Fire, but while those bands feel epic, Sharpe’s Zeros are inherently Laurel Canyon-centric, embracing the late 60’s free love sentiment in a way so convincingly that this could almost be their reunion tour.
Hypeworthy? Can I get a witness? Yes you can. To some, Sharpe and the band may smell of novelty–is Ebert’s straight from a yoga session-enthusiasm patronizing or for real? The chanting “Om Nashi Me” may inspire an eye-roll or two, but the dynamics between Ebert and his girlfriend/occasional co-singer Jade Castrinos is the most sincere display of on-stage romanticism I’ve seen in years. Their duet, “Home,” is a love song that actually inspired a pogo/hoedown on the venue floor. During the rousing “40 Day Dream,” the hippie collective peppers the bohemian atmosphere with some T. Rex swagger. At this point, Ebert nearly came across as a rock and roll messiah.