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Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ UCLA's Royce Hall 05/20/10

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With a painting of the yellow-brick road as their backdrop, it was easy to see that Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros know there’s no place like home. When they played in their hometown at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Thursday night, lead singer Alex Ebert and crew made sure that the audience felt at home, too. Sporting an overgrown beard and a worn-out suit he probably snagged from a thrift store, Jesus look-alike Ebert embraced the audience as he sauntered and danced across the stage, drawing cheers from the anxious crowd.

Supporting their 2009 release Up From Below, the twelve-piece group came off more like an open collective of musicians than a set-in-stone band, performing without a set list and playing with a carefree style reminiscent of the '60s-era psychedelic bands they so beautifully emulate. From the acoustic medleys and folksy singalongs to the vintage trumpet and assorted percussion instruments played by nearly everyone in the band, Sharpe and the Zeros recreated the sound and feel of the '60s with breezy melodies and songs that ran longer live than on their album. The sprawling range of instruments (including ukulele, glockenspiel, accordion, tambourines and maracas) and gang vocals made the concert feel like a good ol’ fashioned hoedown, again harkening back to the music of yesteryear. Thanks to Ebert’s endearing banter and the all-inclusive singalong songs, the band formed an intimate bond with the audience that echoed the music’s themes of love and kindness.

And the crowd loved the attention. They hollered and clapped along to every song, while the single “Home” seemed to bring out the most energy in people: beach balls were released upon the crowd, glowsticks were tossed about, and many whistled or hummed the signature melody while watching Ebert court his maiden, female vocalist Jade Castrinos. Castrinos teased Ebert coyly, making it hard to tell whether one was merely witnessing an act played-out to match the song or whether a romance was truly blossoming in front of their eyes. Regardless, you could tell by the way that Castrinos pranced around the stage in her summer dress that she was genuinely happy to be there, and this sense of joy and comfort was reflected in the crowd’s cheers.

The seated venue seemed a little out of place for The Magnetic Zeros, a band who would be better fit sitting in a drum circle playing in the shade of an oak tree than at a concert hall, but Ebert made every effort to make the fans feel included. He wandered into the crowd, balancing on the backs of seats while shaking and rambling like an enlightened preacher, calling for everyone to sing along with every tune.

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After returning for an impromptu encore although the house lights had already come on, the night ended with the mellow ballad “Brother” performed by Ebert and guitarist Nico Aglietti. For the final song Ebert invited friends, family, and other audience members to join them on stage, as everyone sat down in quiet reverence before the show came to a close. While swaying to Ebert’s wavering voice, the band seemed at peace, and the crowd most certainly shared the sentiment.

Set List:

“Janglin”
“Up From Below”
“40 Day Dream”
“Carries On”
“Come In Please”
New Song
“Black Water”
“Jade”
“Home”
“Om Nashi Ne”

Encore:

New Song
“Brother”

Words by Alex Pieros for LAist
Photos by Michael Camacho for LAist