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This was less of a gig and more of a kick-ass Carnyville-esque type Rough Trade tinged party. Set in the oh so eerie Old Vic Tunnels underneath Waterloo station, you felt like you were walking into something from V for Vendetta. This was amplified by the fact that one of the Magnetic Zeros was a dead ringer for Guy Fawkes. There were wenches and Victorian gentlemen mingling with Elizabethan ladies and burlesque dancers. OK so some of the performance art was a tad pretentious (and not a patch on the Carnyville offerings you’d get in Bristol) but it all helped add to the vibe. Friday night was the last of a five-night run gig in this unique venue for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and you got the distinct impression that they’d saved the best til last. The 10-strong troupe stormed onto the stage with an extended rendition of 40 Day Dream which blew the room away. The mass singalong which followed was a compelling testament to the songwriting talent of the band but it’s their live performance which really seals the deal. You may not have heard much about ES&TMS (I’m gonna shorten it cos it’s a bit of a mouthful) as they’re remain pretty underground (literally) over here but the Old Vic Tunnels was bursting with people who hew every word to every song which created the most wonderfully uplifting atmosphere with people dancing, jumping, waving their hands and beaming under the giant disco balls. Frontman Alex Ebert looks like a cross between Christopher McCandless (Into The Wild) and Devendra Banhart and could be a bit of an arrogant hipster but instead he is adorable. His jerky dance moves and infectious energy radiated out into the crowd and secured him a whole new wave of admirers. But it’s not all about the lead singer as he gave the limelight up to Guy Fawkes (not his real bame) and a couple of his female counterparts – who added that sweeter tone to the songs. Throughout the set you found yourself making comparisons to another wave of fun and inspired bands including Arcade Fire, Felice Brothers, Grouplove and Flaming Lips as well as some other less obvious contenders, such as Nick Cave, Paul Simon and Johnny Cash. The highlight of the set was the momentum gathering Up From Below. A story of one man’s (probably the fictional Edward Sharpe’s) journey from youth to adulthood which starts with the scene setting line: “I was only five when my dad told me I’d die, cried as he said son, was nothing could be done, No all the fists I thrown just tryin to prove him wrong” and ends with “Yes I’ve already suffered I want you to know God, ’m ridin of heaven’s flames coming up from below, Far – From below – how high can we go.” Be-au-ti-ful. They ended by exclaiming how much they loved the UK, so here’s hoping they’ll be back with a full UK tour soon.

Words: Laura Williams
Photo: Jonas Hart via Flickr