By Jim Stanford on June 2, 2013
“I want the whole damn world … to come dance with me,” Alex Ebert bellowed into the microphone. As if for emphasis, he jumped down into the crowd and began hopping and jigging with fans.
The moment, during “Man on Fire,” was indicative of the 90-minute set Ebert’s band performed Wednesday at the sold-out Pink Garter Theater. A rabid crowd had waited years for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to play in Jackson, and from the opening notes, the show was an outburst of joy.
During the first song, “40 Day Dream,” a group of young women locked arms in front of the stage and began swaying back and forth to the rhythm and singing along. Others shook mini-tambourines purchased at the band’s merchandise table. The lovefest was on.
Backed by a veritable orchestra — horn, keys, accordion, bass, several guitars and various percussive instruments — and mesmerizing light show, singers Ebert and Jade Castrinos took the audience on a journey through the band’s catalog. They drew evenly from the first two albums and previewed songs from a forthcoming record, completed just before the band embarked on tour.
Over lunch at Pearl Street Meat and Fish before the show, trumpeter and keyboardist Stewart Cole spoke excitedly about the new album, which he called “all over the place.” The only thing consistent is its inconsistency, he said.
The musicians presented familiar numbers with vigor. Behind a thumping beat from drummer Josh Collazo, “Up From Below,” the title track from the band’s 2009 debut album, erupted like a geyser.
At several points the players paused or brought the tempo down, before building the intensity and sending the crowd — and Ebert — into a frenzy. By halfway through the show, the theater felt like a sauna.
The two singers, former lovers whose romance fueled many of the band’s early songs, traded lines on several duets, including “That’s What’s Up,” from the 2012 album Here. “You be the bird, I’ll be the feather,” Jade sang. “We’ll be the best of friends forever.”
At times the interplay seemed awkward, as inevitably the love songs don’t have quite the same meaning. With her smile and dimples, the lovely Jade charmed more than a few dudes in the audience as she twirled the pleats of her dress.
Ebert, by contrast, looked at the onset like he just woke up on the tour bus, his long hair tied atop his head and scrawny frame draped in a white jacket. He seemed surprised to find such an enthusiastic audience in Wyoming.
“How many of you were born here?” he said, asking for a show of hands. “Like, seven?” He asked whether everyone worked in the T-shirt shop, a jab at the ubiquity of such stores around the Square.
Fortunately, the 35-year-old frontman — originally from Los Angeles but now living in New Orleans — has immense vocal and songwriting talent to get away with a little smugness, and turning his back on the audience for long stretches.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros — named after a fictional character Ebert invented — saved their most beloved ballad for last. The lights became a sky of stars behind the stage, and a chorus of whistling ushered in “Home.” The band presented a crisp, up-tempo version of the singalong favorite. Jade even gave an improvised shout-out to our wide-open state, singing that while California was likely to break her heart, “What about Wyoming?” The crowd let loose once again, overflowing with excitement on the cusp of summer in Jackson Hole.
After one more song, the band left without an encore, a disappointment to the throngs who howled for more. Such abrupt endings have become too common for younger bands playing the Pink Garter.
Still, fans poured into the theater lobby, dripping with sweat and eyes wide with jubilation. “This is church music for white people,” one woman exclaimed to her friends. “And they need it!”
Posted under Music