Concert Review: Folk music fans dance night away at Hard Rock Live

ORLANDO — With a sound that has one foot rooted in the era of 1960s folk bands and the other in contemporary indie rock, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros hit the stage Tuesday night at the Hard Rock Live.

The band was introduced by opening act Willy Mason, a musician with an earthy, country-meets-blues sound. As his Johnny Cash-inspired whiskey-rock songs permeated the audience, some on the fringes of the crowd were already free-form dancing with abandon.

Most of his songs were a slow burn; however, consistently pulling the audience closer caused the room to erupt with applause for his last song of the evening, “I Got Gold,” — in an exposition of praise that paralleled that of some of Edward Sharpe’s performances.

After the 10-member band Magnetic Zeros settled onto the stage, the lights dropped to black and all you could hear were a thrum of applause and a rhythmic heavy bass drum, building up to the moment when the lights came back on and Alex Ebert – Edward Sharpe’s lead singer – stepped to the edge of the stage.

“He’s brilliant,” Brandi King, one of the members in the audience that had spent the night dancing in the back of the crowd, said of Alex Ebert.  “He’s a great artist.  The concert is a chance to be free.”

The band started off with their head-bobbing single “40 Day Dream” off of their first album, “Up From Below.” Not missing a moment to interact with the audience, Alex reached into the crowd and put on a Mickey Mouse hat handed to him from a fan in the front row.

The perfect Orlando experience – a Disney hat being worn at a venue on Universal Studios property – cast aside all pretentions and set the night up for a carefree affair.

The crowd appeared to be stagnant throughout the Magnetic Zero’s first few songs until vocalist Jade Castrinos took the mic for “Remember to Remember” — the audience was jolted awake. Castrinos’ talent at effortlessly pulling emotion from a song was evident as the slow sway of the crowd turned into celebratory cheers.  Toward the end of the song, her voice swelled and reverberated off of the walls.

From that moment forward, Edward Sharpe and the audience seemed to work together in symbiosis. Castrinos and Ebert danced on stage while the back half of the concert floor was full of dancing fans — their shoes kicked to the side.

The band switched around, with each member taking the spotlight for a song as the projector behind them showed their movements on stage like an old home movie, acid washed and bathed in hues of green, red and blue.

It began to feel like a spiritual experience, emphasized further as Ebert passed the microphone around the audience during “I Don’t Wanna Pray,” with members of the crowd screaming out the chorus.

“There’s a barricade separating people from other people… and, well, that’s just fundamentally incorrect,” stated Ebert,

At the end of the night, Alex, addressing a young boy he’d brought on stage moments earlier, said that he understood why the boy was so shy.

Ebert and Castrinos stepped down from the stage into the gulf before the barricade and closed the show with “Home,” giving special meaning to the lyrics as he pointed to the audience and sang, “home is whenever I’m with you.”

Concert-goer Tory Bohanan described the experience perfectly.  “It was life-changing.  Majestic.”

Photos from the night