Friday, September 6, 2013
Concert review: Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeros were brilliant and boring in Dallas show
Lead singer Alex Ebert kept asking a crew member how much time was left in the show.
DALLAS Like any good Pentecostal showman, Alex Ebert knows how to whip his congregation into a lather. But there comes a point in any service when the spiritual well runs dry.
Ebert, the charismatic singer for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, ran into that wall Thursday night at South Side Ballroom in a concert that was at turns rousing and rambling, brilliant and boring.
For this tour, the Los Angeles folk-rock band has swelled to 12 members. But the show centered clearly on Ebert, who invented Edward Sharpe as a fictional preacher with his own dogma: “I love my God/God made me/But I don’t wanna pray to my maker,” he sang.
Unfortunately, he also seemed like he didn’t want to be onstage at times. Looking perpetually dazed with his bird’s-nest hair and faraway eyes, Ebert rambled, acted surly (“Go buy our album!”) and kept asking a crew member how much time was left in the show.
But then, out of nowhere, he seemed re-energized as he shadowboxed and ran in place like David Byrne in Stop Making Sense. His singing was every bit as erratic as his stage presence.
Early in the concert, he tried to ad-lib like a '60s soul singer but wound up sounding less like Otis Redding than Otis the drunk from The Andy Griffith Show. Yet by show’s end, he was singing in a glorious falsetto.
He was bolstered on vocals by guitarist Christian Letts and Jade Castrinos, the band’s co-founder and Ebert’s ex-paramour. Castrinos stole the spotlight with her bluesy lead singing, and she rekindled her spark with Ebert on “Home,” their 2009 lover’s duet that started the now ubiquitous and annoying “Hey!” “Ho!” folk-rock chant.
The Zeros hit a full spectrum of styles, bouncing from gospel sing-alongs and blues boogies to the New Orleans-style dirge “Black Water” and an impromptu “Birthday” by the Beatles. Several tunes recalled songs by their touring pals Mumford & Sons -- but with more pep and less banjo -- while “Janglin’” bubbled forth like a cartoon theme song.
Of course, a little bit of perkiness goes a long way. While most of the crowd stayed until the show ended, more than a few fans left early, either because they were all mirthed out or they’d had enough of the stuffy air inside South Side Ballroom. Now that it has a new name, this may be the perfect time to add a new A/C system to the old Palladium building.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic.
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