Fresh off their stint at South By Southwest, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros delivered a strong dose of their tent-revival mania to Denver last night. Strutting a fine line between sunshine hippie cult and televangelist showmanship, the band packed the Ogden with a lot of grateful bodies, eager to dance to more than just that one-damn-song.
Though anyone looking to enjoy themselves last night would first have to wade through the unholy nightmare that was Rocco DeLuca. Backed up by a drum loop, the slick Los Angeles golden boy playing watered down Delta Blues-style instrumentals suffered the audience with self indulgent guitar solos, singing like Alanis Morissette on whippits with an exaggerated bravado.
When this man sporting Sean Paul-like braids tasseled with beads launched into his rendition of the Etta James classic "At Last," he oversang every other word, taking dramatic pauses for no reason. The whole thing was almost completely interchangeable with Maya Rudolph's SNL skit of National Anthem disasters.
While Rocco DeLuca is an excellent example of what is wrong with music these days, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are the prime archetype of everything that is so right. Joyful yet not religious, complex yet accessible, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on paper don't seem to make sense. Having nearly a dozen musicians playing at any given time, you would think the band would slip into the anthemic bombasity of large bands like the Polyphonic Spree, but the band's frontman Alex Ebert seems to go to exhaustive efforts to simultaneously lift the band into ambitious heights of Dynoisian spirituality, while keeping them all grounded in an "ah shucks" humility.
"This room is almost a spaceship," he said after finishing "Up From Below," the title track from the band's 2009 debut. The night continued with Ebert improvising all sorts of strange phrases, such as "corpus christi/habeas corpus." At one point he gestured to a small section of the crowd and said "there's a small pool of love here...I need one word. Only one word." He directed a microphone at someone, and when the guy said, "we love everybody," Ebert walked away saying, "that was four words."
When the band launched into "40 Daydream," the crowd exploded with sing-a-long energy. Ebert sang with a perfect Bono falsetto, while he borrowed the U2 singer's lyric "one love" (who borrowed it from Bob Marley) for the song "Carries On." The band revealed a few unreleased songs from their upcoming album, Here, due out May 29. During one particularly memorable funk-stomp groover, Ebert sang to his duet partner -- the always charming Jane Castrinos with a Mary Lou Retton-meets-Karen O bowl haircut -- the vaguely sexual line "you be the church and I'll be the people."
Even when the band screwed up, it was adorable, Ebert starting verses over inside the timing of the band, laughing along with Castrinos "too many shows -- wait, wait, I'll get it right." About two thirds into the set, Ebert disappeared from the stage, only to return moments later saying, "I just wanted to check the time. I just want you to know we've been playing for ninety minutes now. At our last show, we played for two straight hours -- and the next morning the review said 'it was a short set.' So I want all you writers out there to know that we've been playing for ninety minutes."
For the record: The oufit played for another forty five minutes after that.
When Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros closed with "Home," Ebert drew out the introductory whistle into a long melody, teasing the audience, who was clearly thrilled to be hearing the song. The upstairs floor shook with the weight of the bouncing crowd, easily fueling themselves off the uncynical cheer emanating from the stage.
Ebert and Castrinos sang into each others eyes like they were on the Grand Ole Opry, her in high wasted pleated skirt, and he looking messianic dressed all in white and barefoot, a combination late-Beatles era John Lennon and the faun Mr. Tumnus from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
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Personal Bias: I hate most everything that comes out of L.A.
Random Detail: The most cliched looking hippie I've ever seen in my life -- peace sign necklace, long curly hair, fuzzy mustache, grainy leather vest with long tassels hanging down -- was also sporting a Clash t-shirt.
By the Way: Sometimes people should just stand their ground and not let those girls into the front section. You've been waiting up there a long time, even though you have to pee, and they think they can just shove their way through a sold-out show crowd to get to the front without earning it? I don't think so.