Review: Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros at The OlympiaTweet
Review: Ros Madigan
Photos: Owen Humphreys
Having treated the Irish fans to 3 performances in 48 hours last year, Alex Ebert and Co were back to Dublin’s Olympia theatre to showcase their latest album – ‘Here’. That whirlwind set of performances last year began with an electrically intimate show in The Button Factory and finished up with a truly special performance on a ship-wreck in the middle of the Electric Picnic forest. That last performance on the EP Salty-Dog stage was to see the end of a mammoth 2 years of touring for the band and their debut album ‘Up From Below’. Despite wowing the crowd that night, tensions and divides were clear to see on stage, as the 2-year slog had obviously taken its toll. Fully refreshed and quite clearly revitalized, the move to the suitably bigger Olympia Theatre proved correct as the night went on to sell out.
All 12 of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros took to the stage clutching Guiness’ in hand. Lead singer, Alex Ebert, wished not to offend by funnily quipping that the Guiness stereotype was nothing to do with racism. Moments later he would raise a glass of the black stuff “to the best white people in the world”. 40 Day Dream would blissfully open the set as the crowd clapped and sang along to the inspired opening track of the night. So not to plateau very early on, Janglin would bring the same sense of communal infused joy as the opener. Alex tippy-toed across the stage as the crowds chorus bellowed out, he stopped for a moment to read a letter handed to him by a fan. All the while, the band and crowd stayed true to the melody as Alex read out the letter in a magically improvised fashion. This reminded the audience that each Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros performance are unlike any other. A fabulously choral beginning to the nights proceedings.
That’s Whats Up would be the first song from the new album – ‘Here’. A simple love song between the bands front duo of Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos. They tangle themselves up among one another on stage as they float around singing lines such as: “You be the book, I’ll be the binding. You be the words, I’ll be the rhyming.” Man on Fire, the lead single from the new album sees Alex depart the comfort on the stage to jump the barrier and into the crowd. As Alex sings with members of the crowd during the chorus, Jade blisteringly echoes his words from the stage as the band flawlessly deliver the musical accompaniment.
What strikes you blatantly when you’re at an Edward Sharpe performance is that sense of community. You, the crowd, feel in some way part of the show. From Alex and Jade joining the crowd, to them directly addressing questions and engaging with their fans, there is a real connection to be felt. This connection is quite clearly shared amongst the band as we enter the part of the set where Jade Castrinos leads the Olympia with her song Fiya Wata. This song proves that Jade is not just a free flowing backing singer. She has a delicately pure voice with strong powerful moments that hint and hark back to glorious folk singers of old.
The band then choose to perform an Alexander original – Truth. This song begins with Alex and a single whistle. This very whistle reverberates through the rafters in the venue as the crowd thankfully choose not to imitate. This eerily absorbing song begins with an almost rap/spoken-word intro where Alex talks directly to the crowd. The word “truth” then shoots across the stale air as Alex trails the song off with a refined whistle outro.
Awake My Body, another song from Alex Abert’s solo album would jointly become the worst and best song of the night. The song as played on the record is completely average but on this night, it would serve as the backing beat to a wonderful game of “Hey, look what we can do”! Alex assumes the role of conductor as he places a large white hat upon band members in order for them to essentially show off. From trumpet to violin to synth to piano and finally drums, each band member takes their turn in jamming live on stage. This near 18 minute extravaganza consisted of some breathtaking music, most notably from piano player Aaron Arntz. The unique element to this, as with everything this band does, is that it is off the cuff, nothing is pre-planned.
Home, the bands biggest single features towards the end of the set. A truly peculiar and engaging love song between Alex and Jade becomes the stand out moment of the night. The energy and enthusiasm of the band is clearly reflected in the crowd as the noise reaches a frightening high. It’s hard to recall a better reaction to any song in The Olympia Theatre as this. The all out frenzy of dancing, shouting and whistling comes to a lovely halt as Alex and Jade take their usual break mid-song. They calmly tell romantic stories about how they first met before finishing the song with the band and crowd loudly in tandem.
With smiles everywhere to be seen, the band leave the stage to a predictable roar in respect and admiration. They return quite bemused by the euphoric reaction to play All Wash Out. As the heavens opened outside the venue, the song about rain proved the final act of musical brilliance inside the venue. As the final downpour of adoration came from the crowd, a quick glance of the watch would tell a story of a 2 hour plus concert. The only oddity in a near perfect set, was the absence of Brother, a previous gig highlight. Other than that tiny factor, a truly special and memorable performance from a band that have to be considered one of the best live bands around.