Dressed in vintage attire, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros kicked off the their four-day Big Top circus Thursday with an evening full of contortionists, acrobats, swallowing swordsmen and an appearance by Sally the Circus Chicken.
And there was plenty of music, too — including an impromptu busking in the middle of the circus baazar, followed by a powerful 12-song set on a circular, revolving stage to end the first day. Several of the songs were chosen from audience members, including Dear Believer and a rare version of Let’s Get High with added lyrics. Edward Sharpe also performed a cover of Ain’t Got No/I Got Life by Nina Simone, a favorite of ESMZ frontman Alex Ebert.
During I Don’t Wanna Pray, Ebert passed the microphone around to different audience members, who sung their favorite verse. The song also featured solos from most of the 12 members of the band.
The concert ended a little after midnight, following an encore of Home that featured “stories” from the crowd, and Jade explaining the history behind the hit song. “Papa Joe” Joe McCord, father of drummer Orpheo McCord, told his own story to Ebert.
“I just wanted to tell you that’s it’s been a real long time since I’ve experienced a phenomenon like this band,” Joe McCord said. “Don’t you all feel like you’re in this band?” Joe McCord asked the audience. “That doesn’t happen often.”
Many fans made long journeys to get to Big Top, including Austin Bennett of Louisiana and 18-year-olds Vanna Lutz and Emily Cacchione from Michigan.
Lutz had seen the band perform before in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Sterling Heights, Mich., but Cacchione was experiencing Edward Sharpe for her first time.
“I’m really excited because I feel they give out a message of happiness – just be happy with what you have and accept it, and love it,” Cacchione said.
Lutz added: “Their songs mean a lot to me. They give me hope for change … Basically all the money I work for is for this trip. They make you feel like you’re a part of it. It just spreads a good feeling … I think positive vibes are kind of magnetic. They just spread a good emotion. They really connect with the people. You see them once, and it lasts forever.”
Bennett was seeing ESMZ for his eighth time. When he heard about Big Top, he knew he there was no way he would miss the event.
“I’ve watched videos of Old Vic Tunnels in London, and knew I had to be there the whole time. It was never even a question. It’s a dream come true.”
If I Were Free
Let’s Get High
Man on Fire
That’s What’s Up
I Don’t Wanna Pray
Motion Animal (Crash song)
Ain’t Got No/I Got Life (Nina Simone cover)
When You’re Young