Two years ago, I saw Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros perform at Webster Hall, arguably the best live performance I have ever experienced. It paralleled, if not trumped, defining shows by heavy hitters like U2 and Green Day. So when I heard the Zeros were performing at Roseland Ballroom in NYC to promote their sophomore album Here, my hope was to witness something akin to that transcendental night.
The show hardly got off to an auspicious start, as Edward Sharpe (aka Alex Ebert) and co. stumbled onto the stage an hour late, making for some angry hipsters in the audience. All was quickly forgiven, however, when the Magnetic Zeros opened up with a pair of hits: "40 Days" and "Janglin'". Things then abruptly, almost jarringly, slowed as Sharpe began describing that with a new album comes the burden of many songs and not knowing which should make the setlist.
To counter this problem, the Zeros decided to throw caution to the proverbial wind by determining their track sequence while performing. Not only did this lead to confusion among the 12 band members on stage, but consistent grumbling and disinterest within the audience as well. Things got so bad, so disorienting, that at one point when the band opted to play "That's What's Up" (the lead single off of Here), vocalist Jade Castrinos forgot the lyrics, forcing the group to restart the song as Sharpe literally mimed the vocals in front of Castrinos during the second take.
The evening became defined by a string of awkward pauses as bandmembers desperately tried to align themseleves to the random song selection, often switching guitars, adjusting equipment, trading places, and explaining the composition changes to one another. Nothing was planned and the transitions between songs gave the concert a sluggish pace and detached tone.
Needless to say, the show was a disappointing one, especially when considering how great the band has been before. During this outing the Magnetic Zeros questioned their folk roots and tried on a jam-band suit, which turned out to be a terrible fit.