Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros Hollywood Bowl 8/4/13 Upon the release of their third album almost two weeks ago, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have a lot to prove. For starters, they need to overcome the perception, true or false, that they're a one-hit wonder. "Home," released in 2009, was a smash that broke open the previously tepidly recognized genre of indie folk. The song could be heard on all types of radio stations and was one of the most licensed in recent memory (except maybe The Heavy's "How You Like Me Now"). But since then, they've barely made a dent on radio or in their album sales. Though that doesn't mean as much as it used to, not having a mega hit to tour behind means that the indie folk troupe needed to make up for the lack of song familiarity with their live show. And that's what they did.
From the jump, singer Alexander Ebert was ready for the big stage. Supported by a projection screen that varied between kaleidoscopic images and a vintage background along with a fancy lighting set up, the singer, who could easily have been mistaken with a character from the Steinbeck classic The Grapes of Wrath, proved to be quite a bandleader.
Ebert has been through his fair share of personal struggles through the years and seeing how much he enjoyed and appreciated being on Hollywood's largest stage wasn't lost on him. Throughout the night, he couldn't contain his bouncy energy, often wearing a smile of a man who just won the lottery.
Despite Ebert's claims that the group didn't have a formal set list prepared, they knew what they were doing and seemed ready for songs to come. While this may seem obvious for any professional band playing at the Hollywood Bowl, not many have so many instrumentalists and moving parts that it's difficult to keep track of them all.
Beginning with "Man on Fire," the first song from the band's self-titled second album, Ebert navigated his way through the crowd, grabbing an unsuspecting gentleman and had him follow him on stage. This wasn't the singer's only foray into the crowd. "I Don't Wanna Prey" saw him lend the mic to a woman in the expensive seats who belted out a few notes herself that made those in my section wonder why she didn't have her own show.
The pressure of playing a hometown show in front of 14, 536 people (Ebert joked he knew half of the people in attendance) isn't necessarily the easiest, but the band was confident and composed throughout, even with the presence of many friends and family members. Rollicking versions of "Janglin" and "40 Day Dream" had both hippies and hipsters swaying from side to side while singing along with Ebert and singer Jade Castrinos. The wall of sound provided by the band was formative and allowed for the singers to lose themselves in their words, dance moves and ultimately the music itself.
By the time ESTMZ managed to sweet talk their way into playing a final song before the Bowl's strict curfew went into affect, everyone was ready for "Home," but not to head there. Their anthem brought whomever wasn't standing, to their feet. Usually when a band closes with its biggest hit, it can be a chore and can be uninspired. Not this. Midway through the anthem, Ebert and Castrinos made their way through the audience one last time, but this time to ask individual audience members to share a personal story. For some this may have been a bit too contrived, but nothing about this was inauthentic.
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This may have been their biggest show in Los Angeles to date, but the band put out a press release that they'll be hosting their own curated event at L.A. State Park. A mix between concert and circus (sort of like Big Top Pee-Wee), the even will take place from October 17-20 and will feature not only performance by the band, but also a unique farmer's market, beer gardens, late night happenings, and performances by an eclectic mix of musicians, vaudeville comedy, contortionists, acrobats, puppetry, and interactive performance art. Set list below:
Man On Fire I Don't Wanna Prey That's What's Up Janglin Child If I Were Free Mother 40 Day Dream Jade Fiya Wata They Were Wrong Better Days Up From Below Home