Review: Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeros at the Beaumont Club

Think of it as a world class, southern revival lounge act…

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros preached to a packed – but not capacity – crowd at the Beaumont Club Saturday for 96.5 The Buzz’s annual Halloweenie Roast.  A handful of concertgoers went all out and costumed up along with two female band members who sported fake mustaches for a song or two.

You know who Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are, right?

They have that one great, infectious hit song on the NFL commercial (“Home”), and that other one on that car commercial (“Janglin”).

The band consists of two guitars, two keyboards, bass, two percussionists, a trumpet, an occasional accordion, and of course, Mr. Sharpe himself (a.k.a. Alex Ebert) who usually plays a tambourine against his chest.

As Sharpe gyrated his way about stage I got the feeling that the band was having more fun than the audience. Not necessarily a good sign.  The set started with the song, “40 Day Dream,” off 2009’s “Up From Below.”  Overall the sound was muddy, and it seemed like the sound guy was struggling to balance all 10 members of the Zeros.  That said, their studio album is also a bit muddy and live sounding, so maybe that’s just who the Zeros are.  The sound did improve, though, as the set went on.

Throughout the set, Sharpe played televangelist, greeting the audience, shaking hands, and generally belting out his tunes with the bravado of a made man.  Good thing he did too, because on Saturday night the Zeros were more about style than substance.

Don’t get me wrong.

There were some excellent moments musically: the plinky, old west style piano on the sixth song of the night, “Come in Please”; the sing-along choruses that echoed throughout the venue all night; the trumpet player, particularly on the song “Black Water”; and of course Mr. Sharpe’s vocals, which exhibited at times a Jim Morrison balladeer quality, and at other times a southern rock growl.

But musical proficiency is not really what this band is selling.

When the Zeros busted out an uninspired version of “Home” on the next to last song of the night, it didn’t matter that the band fumbled the lyrics.  It didn’t matter that Edward thanked “the radio station” for putting on the show. And another band member told us how much she loved coming to St. Louis.

Why not?

Well, first of all, because that’s a damn good song.  And second, there were no ripping guitar solos, virtuoso keyboardists, or even halfway good harmonies.  For that matter, for much of the show I couldn’t even hear what many of the band members were playing.  Were all their instruments even plugged in?

But the Zeros don’t care about that stuff.

They capitalize on simple, storytelling songs, where all ten members are strumming or banging on something.  They build the songs to a crescendo emphasizing the four, five, or six vocalists all yelling out the chorus.  They tell stories about how they met and how they’ll love each other forever.  They tell stories about how their mamas left them and their daddy took a ride.  But damn it, if they’re going to get all emotional about it…that’s life – that’s what happens. And that’s all we’ve got.

At no point was this truer than during the last song of the night, when Edward Jesus beckoned his followers onto the stage to heal their earthly woes.

The congregation had no choice but to oblige, and at least fifty dancing, singing, texting (seriously folks?) believers surrounded the band and revived their souls.

All in all, the nine-song, hour-long set was enjoyable.  I don’t know if it was $30 enjoyable.  And I don’t know that I’ve ever paid $4 for a PBR can before.  But the Zeros certainly have found a niche.  Granted, the niche they have found is probably the result of the legs their hit single “Home” continues to have.

As the audience began filtering out of the Beaumont towards the end of the song, I kind of got the feeling that most of them would have been just as happy sitting in their car with a six pack and smokes, listening to “Home” on repeat for an hour.

I could think of worse things to do.

Matthew Donnelly

Set list:

40 Day Dream

Janglin

Carries On

Up From Below

??

Come in Please

Black Water

Home

??? – dancing with the audience on stag


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