From the second he stepped onstage, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros frontman Alex Ebert was just that — magnetic. He conducted the band with all the ardor of an eccentric new-agey pastor and treated the audience as yet another member to his already extensive 9-piece band. Ebert made it clear that the June 11 show in Reno’s Cargo Concert Hall would be more of a discussion than a performance almost immediately.
“So what do you wanna hear?” he often said between songs while bantering with different audience members. The audience didn’t take this for granted by yelling out the obvious “Home” or “40 Day Dream” right away, instead they opted for cuts from the The Zeros’ latest release “PersonA” such as “Free Stuff” and “Wake Up The Sun,” both of which went over tremendously.
He prefaced “Free Stuff” by explaining that it was a eulogy for the oft-nicked chants of “hey” and “ho” in the post-modern psychedelic folk genre that the band pioneered in the late-2000s. “All things must pass,” he said with a laugh before sliding into the chorus with his falsetto.
After a foray into the crowd, he popped back up onstage for a rousingly ramshackle (even for them) rendition of “I Don’t Wanna Pray” off of the 2012 release “Truth.” The band brought down the volume as Ebert asked the concertgoers, “Anyone wanna freestyle a verse?” He passed the mic around a couple times and fans sang about Reno and the tragedy in Orlando, with the crowd bursting into applause after every few lines.
Before the show even started, there had been murmurings about whether the band would do its breakout hit “Home” since vocalist Jade Castrinos had left/been pushed out of the group in 2014. The worry turned out to be for naught. As the clock neared 11, the group lurched into the hit single and Ebert simply motioned to the crowd, which had no problem belting out the first two verses. He once again had the band drop the dynamic so he could pass the microphone around for people to say anything they wanted, whether it was a joke, poem, or, most commonly, what the song meant to them. The tune went on for 15 or so minutes before the band played another hit, “40 Day Dream.”
As the night wound to a close, Ebert’s energy didn’t let up. He thanked the crowd multiple times and took requests until the 11:15 curfew. For nearly two hours the band beautifully straddled the line between fully rehearsed set and living-room jam session. Ebert’s genuine nature keeps his frequent crowd-participation jags from feeling forced and highlights his ability to bring people together.
Opening act: Harriet
LA-based indie group Harriet opened the show with a series of reverb-laden, electronically driven pop songs. Formerly of Dawes and Papa, lead singer Alex Casnoff’s voice lends the songs a tremendous sheen that works well with the textured, intricate guitar work of Matt Blitzer.