Kool Haus in Toronto, ON
May 13, 2012
Review by: Lee Fraser
Photos by: Julie Lavelle
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes put on a magnetic performance at the Kool Haus.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
Even folks who know very little about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes cannot help but be intrigued. Whether it is because of their part in the documentary Big Easy Express or the omnipresent hit of theirs, "Home", this is a band that has a sound and a feel that are just different enough to make you wonder.
Toronto's 2012 experience started with an on air performance at Sugar Beach, earlier the same day as their Kool Haus show. The band simply skipped across the road to the studio, kicking a soccer ball between them. While most bands will set up and then patiently wait for the cue that they're on air, this band took advantage of the wait time and rehearsed a couple of tunes, including a song formally debuted at the Kool Haus show, the timely "Mother" (the show took place on Mother's Day).
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes is led by Alex Ebert. Not really the "lead singer", Ebert is more the orchestrator, the conductor, and the wizard of this group. Frequently pacing the stage, slipping in behind the other musicians and turning his back to the audience, Ebert is not showing any disrespect. To the contrary, he is constantly monitoring the sound and the composition, making adjustments on the fly, ensuring that this group is producing the desired output for every second of every song.
Given the size of the band, this feat is admirable. There were a total of 18 musicians on stage, including three percussionists, two with full drum kits. During "Up From Below", there was an outstanding instrumental section featuring percussion that was reminiscent of Ginger Baker's drum battles with great jazz drummers. Other highlights were several trumpet spotlights and beautiful violin solos. The sweetheart of the band (and Ebert's) is Jade Castrinos, adding moving vocals as well as guitar or keys to many songs. The interaction between Ebert and Castrinos is adorable and just adds to the already fascinating antics on stage.
About ten songs into the set, there was a lot of discussion on stage and it became apparent that Ebert had begun what turned out to be on-going consultation with the band regarding the remainder of the set list. More than once there was some debate amongst the musicians about what to play next. Although it may have stilted the momentum just a tad, these discussions added to the strength of Ebert's leadership; while still taking others' opinions into account, he ensured that the flow of the set ebbed and flowed from song to song. Though he may look like a half-crazed homeless man, there's no doubt that Ebert is a musical genius.
Regardless of opinion about Ebert's appearance, fans get plenty of opportunity to interact with him. Countless times, the microphone was passed to lucky people in the front row. The banter was at times generalized to the whole crowd but very frequently an exchange with one audience member at a time, about birthdays (followed by a rousing "Happy Birthday"), absent mothers, or resemblances to Jesus. The interaction took a most surprising turn for the last song of the night. Making reference to playing soft-seat shows for most of the tour, Ebert asked if everyone could sit with him, and sit we did. Aside from a few scant rows of the crowd around the edge, everyone sat on the floor, re-creating a 60’s love-in within a dark and cavernous box. So long as you didn't think about it too much, it was magical.