Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Live Review: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Wonder Ballroom, Portland
Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

First key to a great live show: Memorable entrance.

The band entered the stage with the drummer slowly tapping the kick drum . The band wandered around stage, getting everything situated for the start of the show. The drum beat then sped up double time, with Edward stomping to the beat in a monstrous over-exaggerated walk with his back to the stage, which led to the percussion/clapping that is the opening notes of their album's first track, "40 Day Dream." The crowd erupted to the point there were actually women screaming. I have not heard so many screaming women since I ran through the women's shower room with a bullhorn in college. It was a triumphant intro, one of the best I've witnessed. Listening to the beginning of that song occasionally still gives me chills.

Before I get to the highlights of the show, I should mention one of my favorite parts of live shows is seeing a band mix things up, extended intros/outros, blending songs together, longer versions, different versions , cover songs, and maybe a story explaining what the song is about. All of this you don't get listening to the album, so why in the hell do bands basically simulate their album live (I'm pointing at you Local Natives)? If I want to hear the album, I'll listen at home and save $20. Long story short, most songs were slightly different, they played a cover, and Edward told a pretty cool story explaining the song, "Black Water." Short story long, continue reading.

Sorry Jade, but no review of this show would be complete without mentioning your blunder (shaking head). During their most popular song, "Home," Jade and Edward (Alexander) entered the conversational part of the song. They don't repeat the "falling out of the window" story live, they just talk about whatever. That is when Jade addressed the Portland crowd as Eugene (palm over face). Edward instinctively said, "Eugene was last night," which didn't help slide the gaff through. To his credit, he quickly went on a rant about how they spent part of the day riding bikes around Portland, and how much they liked the city. After realizing her mistake, Jade kept awkwardly laughing, yet looked like she wanted to cry. I will say the crowd barely noticed, as many were howling and dancing around before the song ended. Unfortunately, It was that type of crowd, outwardly rowdy for the catchy tunes, ready to catch up with their buddies during the other songs.

They closed out their encore with the song "Brother," and invited a handful of people from the crowd on stage. Then they asked everyone to sit down. It was the guitar player seated on a stool, Edward sitting on stage singing, and several attendees seated all around them swaying back and forth. It had a very John Denver Sesame Street feel to it, especially since most of the crowd on stage were very young (being invited on stage from the under 21 side).

I was standing on the drinking side when he asked everyone to sit down. The "group think" that occurred was along the lines of, "Wait, people with full beers have been jumping up and down running into each other, that dude is puking in the corner, the guy standing against the wall is so drunk, all he can do is stare at women with a string of drool hanging from his chin, and you want me to sit down?" No one flinched. That is when I thought, "No spilled beer on the under 21 side," and quickly shot over there to find everyone sitting down. Everyone except the security guard who was a couple feet from the stage blocking the crowd's view of the lead singer. You couldn't take a knee? I don't know what to expect from the Wonder Ballroom staff anymore. Of the ten less than desirable experiences I've had with security/staff at venues, nine occurred here. That is not random?

The sitters on the kid's side were completely attentive, while the drunken blabbering from the back of the other section echoed through the venue. "Brother" is a very quiet song, so the 20 people who weren't being quiet really stood out. I need to spend more time in the under 21 section (don't read anything into this because of my tasteless shower joke earlier).

Having sold out the Wonder Ballroom two nights in a row, it's pretty safe to say this band has blown up. After only one album, they already have three bonafide shout along crowd pleasers, the "Brother" gimmick, and the usual set closing jam, "Om Nashi Man." Just think what their live shows will be like after they release another couple albums. They will easily sell out the Crystal Ballroom or Roseland, and are establishing themselves as the next big thing. Then again, they'll probably just skip Portland the next time through, and play Eugene instead.

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