Live Review
EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS AT OLD VIC TUNNELS
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Old Vic Tunnels
London
11/03/11

Alex Ebert is quickly forgiven for threatening Axl Rose lateness as he rasps greetings and his band shingle through the crowd Hare Krishna style. On stage, assembled like a cleaner Gogol Bordello – a happier Arcade Fire – they sway into ‘40 Day Dream’. The audience succumb, caught by the sweetening ambience as a new bluegrassy number transposes into ‘Up From Below’. Not that we are left wanting for atmosphere. The Old Vic Tunnels are a carnival-esque setting from Elephant Man-era London.

ES&MZ take one cavern, and in each of the others stranger shows continue – a charred man with a wrecked umbrella wanders in silhouette before an Olafur Eliasson sun; a geisha ballerina dances under a huge spherical moon; burlesque acrobats whirl around a rope climbing frame; banjos play to a room of deckchairs; louche harlots slouch in a pop-up Texan dive bar. The set is sober in comparison, with Ebert’s shamanic theatrics mercifully absent.

The songs speak, and the band share the spotlight until ‘Home’ crescendos and he flings himself into the crowd, a messianic crouton. “Who’s got a story?” he asks. A fan grabs the mike, “I travelled 2,000 fucking miles to see you man. 2,000. Fucking. Miles. YEAH!” We travelled just over four fucking miles, but are equally star-struck by the encore.

By John Paul Nicholas

Originally published in issue 26 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. March 2011.