NEW YORK, NY—Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros is a pseudo-1960s revival band with a somewhat varying line-up (at this show there were nine on stage), fronted by Alex of Ima Robot. In fact, Edward Sharpe is the musical opposite of Ima Robot, in style, subject matter, and presence/absence of drum machines. Their music sounds heavily influenced by Captain Beefheart and the Grateful Dead, or at least, if either made pop songs that could conceivably be featured on Gossip Girl. This band, I admit, seems like a tough sell. But to a lot of people they’re not, because their two November New York City shows sold out weeks in advance.
During the summer, I saw Alex waiting for the G train the morning after I went to see them at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg. Dressed in his “average dude” clothes, his dreadlocks covered by a hat, it took a few seconds for me to recognize him, and when I did I stared relentlessly. I was such a creep. I made it worse by pretending not to stare, in that conspicuous “I’ve totally been staring at you” way. After the initial shock wore off, I felt so ashamed of myself. And maybe that’s the purpose of a persona, to separate who a person is from who he performs. Part of me, however, can’t help but think that my persona’s posse would have a better name than the Magnetic Zeros.
Alex walked on stage in a white suit with no shirt and a red scarf, like Elvis. Some of the band appeared to be in costume, others not. And Alex was the only one to take off his shirt.
They opened up with “40 Day Dream.” It’s a great song to play in front of a crowd; it’s energetic, there’s a sing-along. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, but there was something off about the night. Maybe it was because it was a Tuesday. Or maybe there was simply too much nostalgia. I expected it from the band, clearly, but everyone in the audience was on their phones. Everyone was taking pictures and videos on their Blackberries. In front of me, a dude in a suit seriously Facebooked someone on his iPhone about how awesome it was. It made me a little sad.
When I saw them in August, they were amazing. I had never felt so happy at a show before. I just felt sort of uncomfortable at this one. Maybe it’s me. During “Simplest Love” we were told to touch another person, so it wouldn’t be weird. It definitely made it weirder. Before they launched into “Om Nashi Me,” which is a chant song that somehow totally works, Alex admitted, “Look it up. It’s Sanskrit. I didn’t know what it meant when I wrote it. I’m embarrassed.” According to the Internet, it might mean “Oh Infinite Nakedness.” Which is pretty embarrassing.
The night had some high points, “Come In Please” was really fun, as was “Janglin’.” “Home” was a great fan favorite, and Jade and Alex’s banter came off honest and sweet, though they’ve been through it a thousand times. “Black Water” was ridiculous, because really, a blues number about Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, And Steel? But I was happy they played my favorite, “Up From Below.” And there were funny moments, too, like when the keyboardist was passed a joint from the crowd and smoked it on stage. Or how at the end of the night, a girl up front played with Alex’s scarf every time he crouched as if she were a kitten.