Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are no strangers to these parts, having in the past few years played twice at the SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (reviewed here and here) and once each at UCSB’s Extravaganza and at the Lobero Theatre (reviewed here).
Last Saturday night, which was also Cinco de Mayo and the night of the “super moon,” the band — now with about a dozen members — graduated to the beloved Santa Barbara Bowl. And while their previous shows focused almost exclusively on the songs from their amazing 2009 debut album Up From Below, at the Bowl nearly half of the set consisted of new songs, only some of which will appear on their eagerly anticipated second album, Here, due out later this month.
The show started strong with a catchy, uplifting new one, with a trademark whistled intro before some nouveau hippy ensemble singing repeating the words, “Sing a song.”
This was followed by the glam-soul “40 Day Dream,” one of the best from their debut album. During this, lead singer Alex Ebert paused his singing to soak in the good vibes before continuing to the ending, “Oo-ah-ah-ah oo-ah-ah-ah, yeah.” Brilliant!
Next up was “Carries On,” which like the later “Desert Song” had a cool, long, trippy intro. This was followed by Jade Castrinos’ vocal showcase “Fiya Wata,” finally to appear on Here, which had new group vocals from her previous local performances of the song. One of the many things I like about these guys is that they mix it up, rather than always playing a given song the same way.
Unfortunately, the show lost a bit of momentum at this point, with long pauses creeping in between songs, seemingly due to the lack of a setlist. I’m certainly cool with a band winging it like that, but quicker decisions of what to play next could have kept things flying high.
At any rate, they followed with two new songs in the country gospel vein, “That’s What’s Up,” which is a catchy duet by Ebert and Castrinos with lyrics such as, “You be the book, I’ll be the binding / You be the words, I’ll be the rhyming,” and “I Don’t Wanna Pray.” Next came “Truth” from Ebert’s 2011 solo album, Alexander, and the folky new single “Man on Fire” that local followers first heard at their Lobero show.
Things degraded slightly when they got to “Jade,” during which Ebert started singing the wrong verse, although the accompaniment by openers Las Cafeteras and their dancers added an interesting element. Then, toward the end of the next song, “If You Wanna,” Ebert lost his note and struggled a bit to find it. Even so, it was still a fun one, with some funny, crazy dancing by the band.
Such hiccups were seemingly forgotten by the time they got to their last song and their biggest hit, “Home,” which had everyone singing and dancing/jumping along. Although the banter section was a bit uninspired, this showed that when Edward Sharpe is truly sharp, it is magic.
It was a huge treat to hear so much new material from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and although past results are not a guarantee of future performance, I’m willing to bet that their next visit to Santa Barbara will be another memorable one.
Setlist (songs in [brackets] have unconfirmed titles)
[Sing a Song]
40 Day Dream
That’s What’s Up
I Don’t Wanna Pray
Man on Fire
If You Wanna
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.