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“Relax,” Alex Ebert told the crowd Tuesday night at the El Rey Theatre. “Just relax.”
A simple enough entreaty. The barefoot and bare-chested Ebert and his 12-member ensemble, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, were playing hippie hymns fit for a 1960s love-in, but the capacity crowd was demanding and edgy, almost fit for Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was as if the Born Too Late Generation were fighting for limited seats on a time machine bound for the Age of Aquarius.
- ||| Photo gallery by Laurie Scavo
Tips for your next hippie gathering: 1) Check your testosterone at the door; 2) Respect your fellow concert-goer’s personal space; 3) Don’t chatter through the opening act, especially when it is a 25-member choir of gowned women; 4) Don’t shout coarsely at the lead singer; 5) Keep your “bro wear” (polo shirts with designer logos, ballcaps worn sideways) to a minimum; 6) Tip your bartender.
That said, the Big Love exuded by Ebert, partner-in-song Jade Castrinos and the rest of the band carried the evening. The adulation bestowed upon the Magnetic Zeros, who less than a year ago were an underground phenomenon, was palpable – and even bankable: Somebody threw cash onstage (which Ebert tossed back to the masses).
The soulful folk songs on the band’s debut, “Up From Below,” are paeans to harmony with the power to be a hedge against a madding world, but the charged atmosphere of the El Rey made them seem larger than life. “40 Day Dream” and “Carries On” fairly levitated the crowd; “Home” induced smiles all around with its call-and-response chemistry between Ebert and Castrinos; tunes like “Desert Song” turned the main floor into a popcorn popper of arms and bodies. Ebert forayed into the crowd to sing one number, and an encore featured a just-winging-it version of a” song that the frontman said guitarist Nico Aglietti “had just written,” as well as a couple’s onstage marriage proposal.
Coming as it did at the end of a long tour, Tuesday’s headlining show must have felt like a milestone, and at times Ebert – the former frontman of dance-rockers Ima Robot who has now segued to music that feels more organic – seemed overwhelmed by the reception. “It’s a dream,” he told the crowd. “Thank you so much.”
Frank Fairfield, and then the 25-member LA Ladies Choir (which featured a lot of voices from the L.A. indie scene) opened, with Joe McCord (father of Magnetic Zero Orpheo McCord) performing a brief mime sketch prior to the headliners.
||| Live: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros perform Sunday at the Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice and Oct. 3 at the Manimal Vinyl Festival at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown.