Say what you will about Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ neo-hippie shtick — or better yet, let this guy do it for you — but they sure know how to put on a good show. The L.A.-based, ten-plus member outfit has received their fair share of critical attention of late, but it’s not until you catch them live that you can truly understand why. Fronted by Ima Robot’s Alex Ebert and his one-time lady love Jade Castrinos, the band plays a catchy mish-mosh of ‘60s folk revival, percussion-driven indie rock, and something that at times resembles an oddball gospel choir, all delivered with a raw, contagious energy that literally pulls you into the action.
Wednesday’s sold-out performance at SOhO consisted almost solely of material off the band’s debut record, last year’s Up From Below, which gave most of the audience members ample chance to get their sing on. Things started off well enough, with buoyant, slightly reverb-riddled renditions of album opener “Janglin,�� “40 Day Dream,” and “Come in Please.” At the center of it all, Ebert’s lanky, shirtless figure — and epically disheveled head of hair — proved downright engrossing to watch. In performance, he’s shaman-like, posturing, gesturing, and playfully directing his Zeros through their happenstance setlist. Against his bellowing vocals and charisma, Castrinos’ quirky, almost meek presence should, logically, fade into the background. But armed with a pitch perfect voice that mimics Nancy Sinatra’s at both its highest and lowest registers, Castrinos nearly stole the show — especially in solo form.
Halfway through the set, she and Ebert busted out “Home,” a call-and-response ditty that brought the room’s nearly explosive energy to a foot stomping, sing-along fueled head. Following the fervor, Castrinos made herself scarce as the band serenaded their leading lady with “Jade,” then returned to the stage mid-song to a sea of cheers. From there, newly found piano man Tyler James got some short but sweet solo time, then launched into the slow building “Om Nashi Me.” Perched atop the baby grand, Castrinos bashfully grinned, traded layered glances with Ebert, and belted through the song’s eerily poignant chorus: “And I love you forever / And forever is now.”
Still, it was the close of Wednesday’s show that proved to be the most resonant. Exhausted and wobbly, Ebert matter-of-factly announced to the floor, “We’re not going to do an encore,” then caught himself, saying, “Well, we’re just going to do the encore now.” In lieu of an exit, the spent frontman invited the crowd onto the stage, and then encouraged those left standing before him to take a seat. Despite nearly an hour of sweaty position vying, the capacity crowd complied and parked themselves, along with Ebert, for an almost a capella performance of “Brother.” Backed by only a guitar and a room full of fans, Ebert sat and warbled over the minimalist ode to a lost loved one. It was the perfect, and at the same time the most misrepresentative, way to close the show, but it undoubtedly left everyone there a firm believer in the mystical, sometimes magical powers of Ed Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.