A power cut can be enough to send a headline slot south, with only the finest able to resurrect it. A power cut during a support slot will more than likely drag a performance into no-man’s-land and the performer at hand scurrying off-stage in an apparent funk at the mean ol’ crowd’s reluctance to shhhhhh or sing along… as it did here. Where you have gigs you have crowds, where you have crowds you have chatter and where you have chatter you have people insisting that you s.t.f.u. so that they can have a moment. If this is the future, the future is fucking well grim, friends.
Anyway, digression aside, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes amble onstage thirty minutes late thanks to said power cut and Alex Ebert immediately asks the crowd what they want to hear. Either the band’s setlist went out of the window because of the time issues or handing control to the crowd was their plan all along. Either way, the second of the nominated tracks was ‘Mother’; an obscurity that perhaps only the die-hards would appreciate and thankfully it only features on a compilation album. It arguably should have remained a poem. Ebert’s voice sounds knackered and strangled and his L.A. hobo-chic made him look like a seldom fed Fortycoats, a tramp. His Christ-like persona is sometimes a masterstroke and sometimes it is the most grating thing imaginable. Unfortunately things don’t really pick up after this and for most of the set only those in the front few rows seemed to be gaining anything from it.
Ebert and Co. are rightly praised for their barrier-free approach to gigs and the mic is handed out to whomever wants it as the singer engages in some shuffling back and forth to interact with the punters. During a gig there are few things better than spontaneity, but the caveat is that it must have a pay off. Otherwise doing stupid, goofy, random things looks entirely stupid, goofy and random. Taking a camera from an outstretched hand and filming yourself dicking about between bandmates serves nobody if the bandmates look embarrassed and bored while you’re doing it. Even more so if the payoff goes exclusively to the owner of the outstretched hand. Handing the mic out to people so they can tell everyone about how “your music saved my life” is a nice touch but, again, it’s just taking up precious time for the sake of it.
Anyway, at times the band are fantastic and hold a tight line for Ebert and Jade Castrinos to work with. Their rootsy, bluesy take on folk is custom made for bands with high numbers and the Magnetic Zeroes are an almost perfect unit. But tonight just wasn’t their night and no amount of whooping and stomping can paper over the cracks. All in all this was a set thoroughly lacking in highlights, but ’40 Day Dream’, ‘Man on Fire’ and ‘Home’ are bona fide crowd pleasers and did just that. But the rest of the set, for all of it’s brevity, was an incohesive and almost self-parodic exercise and not a patch on what this band is capable of. At one point Ebert even apologised and asked who was coming back the following night. “Three of you, huh.” Enough said.
Photo: Mark McGuinness