With his hair piled atop his head, an unkempt beard, and 12 other band members, Alex Ebert bounded on stage; his hands drew unknown figures in the air as the drum beat for “40 Day Dream” reverberated off the walls of Royal Oak Music Theatre. The whole band then launched into the heart of the song with such inexorable thirst for music, the entire audience was dancing whether they were aware of it or not. The band, even recorded, makes clear what audience they aim to speak to. But on stage, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros made clear that Tuesday night was for the dreamers and the lovers.
After their first four songs knocked down the majority of their hits (“40 Day Dream,” “Man on Fire,” “Jangling,” and “That’s What’s Up”), ESM0s quickly mellowed. The feeling of a festival or circus didn’t necessarily leave the venue; rather it was suppressed for a few songs until “I Don’t Wanna Pray.” The Magnetic Zeros consisted of a sprawling 13 members, led by Ebert and Castrinos, and featured a wide array of instruments from accordion to trumpet to upright bass. Playing unmistakably buoyant music full of hopeful messages (as well as transcendentalist images), it seemed hard for the band members not to have a blast on stage – Ebert admitted, “I want to…but I have to be a rock star. I can’t smile.”
What seemed most impressive on Ebert’s part was his interaction with the audience. Whether he was dancing or bouncing or singing, he made an effort to connect with those in the front of the crowd by holding hands, hugging, and during “Home,” offering the microphone to those who had something to say. Whatever physical or social barrier there was between audience and band quickly melted away so that we were less spectators than a bunch of people enjoying love-filled songs.
Perhaps the band received such positive energy because the opener, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, failed to deliver anything more creative than lyrics such as, “Satan, Satan, Satan/Satan, Satan, Satan.” Their driving bass line and high-pitched synths proved less than impressive after several songs obeyed the same form. Plus, for an audience expecting fun folk-rock, we struggled to warm up to a heavy electronic-based indie band.
Thankfully, the hippie gypsy-crew of the Magnetic Zeros saved the night by reminding us of the pure joy of music. Ask anyone – the old man sitting next to me who claimed he loved Edward Sharpe and Pitbull, the countless men sporting wild beards, or the couple who ballroom-danced the whole night – if they could stop themselves from singing, dancing, or smiling throughout the two-hour show. I’ll bet their response will be something in the vein of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ lyrics: “Only one desire/that’s left in me/I want the whole damn world/to come dance with me.”