Summer in Chicago is a thing of beauty, a rhapsodic time in which beer is consumed by the gallon and sunburns are embraced as a balm against the ever-encroaching winter. Summers been a bit slow coming this year, but it finally arrived on Thursday night at the Riviera Theatre, as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros enchanted a packed house.
The Magnetic Zeros sound like how a festival feels, and with a sprawling 13 members on stage, it nearly looked like one too. Add to that lack of air conditioning and a sold-out crowd, and it was a steamy night in the old movie house, as lead singer Alex Ebert cheerfully pointed out. Nice and hot! he proclaimed it, though it didnt stop him from pinwheeling all around the stage, arms spread out, legs flailing, signaling this band member or that one with a loose shake of his wrist.
Bandmate Jade Castrinos had a welcome return to the spotlight, and her cheerful voice formed its usual bright foil to Eberts raspier, more traditional folk tones. This in turn injected tracks from the bands forthcoming release, Here, with significantly more life than they possess on the album, on which Castrinos is notably quieter. The Magnetic Zeros are without question better in person, and here their return to this original harmonic sound suited the material well. I Dont Wanna Pray in particular had miles more personality under these conditions, awake and lively with warm horns.
Fan favorites 40 Day Dream, Janglin, and Home made their expected appearances, though they also got the live upgrade. Home benefitted from an ad-libbed dialogue and the addition of bongos, while Janglin teased its opening with just the keys and the marimba plunking out its signature rhythm. The crowd was equally eager for the newer material. Man On Fire was another track made even more enticing by the huge cast and party vibe, and Castrinos vocals found their full potential on Fiya Wata.
Hemmed in by an apparently strict curfew, Ebert, Castrinos, and company plowed right through, skipping the fake exit/obligatory encore and instead using the time to explore new riffs on old favorites. The two leads danced and spun, Ebert flailing and Castrinos skipping about, grooving with a charming authenticity to the several guitars, violin, cello, bells, drums, keys, piano, tambourineyou name it and they had at least oneplaying on behind them, leading both the band and the crowd. Ebert was a sight with his messianic facial hair, and every time he neared the edge of the stage, women screamed.
The band closed things out with an extended riff on Om Nashi Me that had several near-stops and restarts. A giant white ball with colors projected across ita reproduction of Heres cover artspun above them all the while, and the crowd was on their feet, singing along and dancing with arms overhead. They left beery and sweaty and sonically satisfiedall the best qualities of a Chicago summer.
Photography by Brad Bretz.
Up From Below
40 Day Dream
One Love to Another
I Dont Wanna Pray
Man On Fire
Thats Whats Up
If You Wanna
Om Nashi Me