Los Angeles-based Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros brought distinctive indie folk to Philadelphia April 2 at the renowned World Cafe Live. Frontman Alex Ebert filled the club with unbounded passion, generating a profoundly emotional night.
The show sold out quickly and it is clear why the group is so adored. Though Jade Castrinos, singer and ex-girlfriend of Ebert, recently left the band, the current members delivered a strong show without her. Ebert was backed by nine other talented musicians, complete with a tambourine, tuba, trumpet, double bass and a beautifully executed piano.
The revolving membership of the band, inspired by the hippie movement, classifies the band as widely eccentric and incomparable to other folk shows. The evening highlighted the originality of the group from the beginning, as two of the members invited local talent onto the stage as the opener. Asking for anyone with musical ability, they summoned five volunteers to the platform. The result was incredible.
Though the first act ended up not performing, the four other local musicians left the audience speechless. From a country-inspired songwriter and guitarist to a poignant piano performance, the amount of talent before the audience was astonishing. Only Edward Sharpe would divert from a typical opener to create something far more outstanding.
Ebert impressed the crowd further with many new songs that will be featured on the band’s upcoming album. Though the crowd hoped for familiar tunes like the infamous “Home” and “I Don’t Want to Pray,” the band surprised the audience with almost all new songs, though it is understandable because the former member Castrinos was showcased in all of the popular hits.
The band played a few fan-favorites like “Free Stuff” and “Hot Coals,” but some songs were so new that Ebert needed to read the lyrics off a tattered sheet of paper. The most memorable song of the night brought tears to Ebert as it recounted a love story, possibly about Castrinos. Although the setlist for the night was slightly disappointing, Ebert made up for it through this single song and his stage presence in general.
Less than a foot away from fans, Ebert spent most of the night sitting on speakers directly in front of the stage. With a glass of wine in his hand and a trench coat that flowed to the stage floor, he casually connected with his fans, constantly telling them how much he loved them. He dashed across the front throughout the show, grabbing the hands of screaming admirers. At one point, he pulled a girl on stage and let her dance wildly through an entire song.
During informal chatter, Ebert casually sipped his wine and continuously slicked back his wild mane, showing off the flowered bracelet on his wrist that he explained was from a fan from his last show.
Although the show was executed casually as if no thought went into it, the performance was flawless. Fitting the ten members onto the petite stage appeared unorganized, but they were incredibly coordinated throughout the night. Exchanging sustained smiles and laughs, the band had almost as much fun performing as the crowd had watching.
Unfortunately, the show ended rather quickly with no encore, lasting only a little over an hour.
It has been difficult for the band to adapt without Castrinos, and Ebert has clearly been left heartbroken, but their separation has strengthened Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, leaving Ebert with even more to say through his beautifully written songs. The level of emotion in the venue was high and it left the audience with a night they will never forget.