Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros phone it in Sunday night

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros phone it in Sunday night
photo by: Stacy Schwartz

There are bands that have style and bands that are so chock full of raw, unadulterated talent that witnessing it almost brings a person to tears. The rarest of bands have both, but they are few and far between. Sunday at First Avenue saw one band heavy on style and one so full of talent they already seem destined for a place on the all-time classics list. It's not often you see an opening band blow the headliner out of the water but that is exactly what happened Sunday night.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros phone it in Sunday night
photo by: Stacy Schwartz

Dawes immediately brings to mind the sun-drenched, countrified canon of CSN&Y but lead singer Taylor Goldsmith's lyrics are have much less of a political bent, are incredibly introspective and very carefully crafted. In between songs Goldsmith mentioned that they have such a good time playing shows in Minneapolis that they wish they were from here to loud, approving hoots and applause; "But we're from L.A., we can't help that." he dryly noted. They played two new songs from their record, that is slated for a fall release, one of which ("Fire Away"), may be better than anything on their debut, North Hills, an excellent sign considering the formidable strength of that album. They got the audience to help with the final chorus of "When My Time Comes," not missing a beat when they began to play the song again. There is no pretension with Dawes. No trickery, nothing rings false. They had a workman-like approach to the set with just the right amount of flair. In short, the sum is much more than their parts.

Then we had Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to deal with, and things quickly changed.

On paper Edward Sharpe and company, led by former Ima Robot lead singer Alex Ebert seem, at worst, interesting. The music, on record, only drags a little in a few places. None of this translates to the live show at all. Ebert took the stage dressed as some sort of bastardized version of a messiah -- in wool socks. Things quickly got weirder from there. The ten-piece band came off like they hadn't practiced in weeks, if at all. There were missed cues, stoppages to talk to the crowd at odd times during several of the songs and at one point Ebert made a much-larger-than-needed production (roughly five minutes) of finding a person in the crowd to whom he could sing "Happy Birthday". After that person was found, he simply abandoned the rendition about one-third of the way through. With the sole exception of "Home," which was spot on and actually pretty great, the rest of the set seemed to meander without any real direction or focus. At one point the crowd was awash in the unmistakable glow of cell phones, making it pretty obvious that the majority of people in attendance were flat-out bored. He staged some type of sit-in during the encore but, like much of the set, it was just another action with no real substance. The hippie-dippy stage presence only takes away from the music and they committed the cardinal sin of touring bands: they're far more enjoyable on record.


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