Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros + Wagons + Reggie Watts – The Forum (01.02.11)

The hippies were out in force and flooded the Forum with their dreadlocks, ponchos and eager anticipation to see the great messiah Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros weave their magic upon a welcoming Melbourne crowd.

Supporting the ramshackle crew were delightful locals Wagons and their tongue-in-cheek alt. county styling’s. Henry Wagons becomes more endearing every time I see him play. The man oozes charisma in a tragically nerdy manner. His onstage banter is hilarious in a similar fashion as to when you would go to your friend’s house in high school and their Dad would tell you a bunch of irrelevant embarrassing stories, except in this case their Dad is extremely shag worthy. The boys powered through a cracking set which included a cover of Elvis’ “Never Been To Spain” and my personal favourites “Love Me Like I Love You” and “Good Town”. If you’ve never seen Wagons before than head to their show at The Corner on March 4th. They truly are one of those must see live bands.

American comedic musician Reggie Watts ambushed the stage between sets, and for a crowd who were impatiently awaiting the arrival of their God, they warmed up to him rather well. Watts is in town touring for the Big Day Out circus and his live looping/one man band style show set to a backdrop of humorous anecdotes were rather out of place, but nonetheless his impromptu performance was greeted with much applause and laughter from the audience. He did have an amazingly soulful voice and is definitely someone worth keeping an eye out for at comedy festivals.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros took to the stage to masses of screaming and applause with front man Alex Ebert looking as though he’d rolled straight out of the gutter and into the public eye. Being onstage seemed to disturb him slightly as he tottered around with a puzzled expression on his face, incoherently rambling and half telling stories that led to nowhere. As far as front men go, he wasn’t remotely engaging or charismatic and if anything I took his between song banter to be a grand warning against the health dangers of substance abuse.

The first hour of the set was painfully embarrassing to witness. They opened with “40 Day Dream”, which paled in comparison to the studio recording. There seemed to be an excessive amount of musicians onstage for the simple melodies and blasé sound being produced and really having two full drum kits playing at the same time was redundant as neither of them did anything noteworthy throughout the course of the evening. Big bands like this are renowned for the festive, friendly vibes they emit simply from the pleasure the musician’s take in each others company and to the bands credit Jade Castrinos’ mad dancing with the tambourine was great to watch, but their sweet indie folk that made for such pleasant listening on 2009’s Up From Below, was lacklustre and disappointing live. The overtly joyous nature of their sound was lost in translation and marred by haphazard instrumentation and Ebert’s inane one man monologue that he spewed out at the end of every song.

Fortunately the music took a turn for the better with a glorious rendition of “Janglin” that finally showed the power I was hoping Edward Sharpe & TMZ were capable of. At this stage of the night Ebert seemed to come alive, and whilst his banter didn’t improve, the rest of his performance was electric, and the band followed suit with everyone giving their all to the last half hour of the show. The room erupted as the opening strains of “Home” came tumbling out of the speakers and a mosh pit of insane singing and dancing ensued as Ebert launched into the crowd. They didn’t bother heading offstage before the encore, instead Ebert opted to remain entangled amongst the audience members, inviting a few of them to sit onstage with the band as he persuaded the rest of the crowd to sit down with him on the floor and in his words ‘take a seat on the pavement so your butt hole is connected directly to mother earth’. The night ended with a gigantic hippie love in, and it was as though Ebert were sitting around a camp fire with a few hundred of his closest friends as he sang a heart warming version of “Brother”.

All in all the last five songs being amazing wasn’t enough to undo the damage of the horrendous first hour of the set, but at the end of the night the hardcore fans piled out of the venue with big happy smiles on their faces looking as though they‘d witnessed something akin to a religious experience, and really that’s all that matters.