My friend and I invested faith in our respective navigation skills Friday when we ventured out on foot towards The Cabooze, located in the West Bank of Minneapolis. Our three-hour frantic meander through the cities taught us two things; 1) We have no navigation skills, and 2) Good live music is sometimes worth the harrowing stress of being completely lost.
We arrived surprisingly in enough time to creep through the packs of fedora-wearing hipsters and clusters of clove smoking middle-aged women to a spot where we could almost clearly see the stage. It was immediately clear; Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros were officially a mainstream act. After spending years performing in abandoned warehouses and parking lots, the wall-to-wall chockfull crowd denoted serious growth in E Sharpe’s popularity. My feelings were neutral on this, but I could tell by my friend’s face (who’s been an avid fan since the actual formation of the band) that the drunken foolishness and poser presence took a blow to the wholesomeness and beauty that is an Edward Sharpe live show.
The obnoxious crowd became less of a distraction once Alex, Jade and the rest of the Magnetic Zeros marched onto the outside stage. The set list was amazing. They played almost an hour longer from when we saw them a year ago at Summerfest, and they played everything. They sang songs from Up From Below, the new album Here, and a handful of unrecorded tracks.
Highlights were “I Don’t Wanna Pray” off the new album, where Jade belted out an unbelievable second verse that gave me goose bumps, and “Child”, whichguitarist Christian Letts sings chillingly to perfection (and is arguably the best track on Here).
The most captivating part about this show was the chemistry onstage. Alex was (and is always) on another planet when performing live. It’s similar to a Jim Morrison relationship with The Doors. The Magnetic Zeros improvise with whatever outlandish lark Alex decides to accomplish on a given song. Whether that means climbing through the front row of the audience mid-song, or deciding to scream loudly instead of singing the correct words during a verse (he did both Friday night). The band usually handles the improvisations, but after a while it gets irritating to watch. Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are about togetherness and unity, but Alex kind of kills that movement with his live charades. Don’t get me wrong; he’s an unreal live performer. His charisma and talent onstage is comparable to none, but his cooperation and gallantry could certainly use some work.
The relationship between him and Jade onstage is particularly confusing. During the first couple of songs Alex chased Jade around in a very childish manner, and whispered things into her ear during pauses in songs. This seemed weird to me because Jade was not responding to most of his gestures – in fact, she didn’t respond to any of his gestures during the concert. It was almost like Alex was teasing her, or attempting to push her buttons. After one song I turned to my friend and asked, “Do you think Alex is nice to Jade?”
In unison we both said, “I sure hope so”.
Maybe I’m over exaggerating things because I love this band so much, but the relationship between Alex and Jade seemed perturbed. They seemed on different pages Friday night, and that disparity worries me. Not only because I think it could tear apart this beautiful construction of a band, but Jade is far too innocent and adorable to be treated unkindly.
And Jade, if you’re reading this, I love you.
Through all the off-putting antics and confusing gestures, this was still a phenomenal live show. Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are truly a one-of-a-kind band and their knack for performing and making innovative music (if you haven’t listened to Here you need to do so immediately) is uplifting. I’m critical because I’m infatuated, that’s all.
**All photos captured by Stuart Wainstock