all words: Josh Stewart
all photos: Priscilla Ledesma
It should be noted that this show presented many firsts for me as I had never been to the Sixth and I Synagogue nor had I ever seen Alexander and Fam (or, for that matter, any of Alexander Ebert’s many musical projects (see Edward Sharp and The Magnetic Zeros and IMA ROBOT))
He’s My Brother She’s My Sister opened the night up with several crooning folk- western ballads. The songs walked along at a nice and leisurely pace while their wardrobe was somewhere between Deadwood and Jesus Christ Superstar (think glittery eye shadow and orange tunics.) Though I knew nothing about the band going in, I was left with am overall good impression, albeit not quite so taken by the constant clog/tap dance/drummer.
Alexander and Family arrived to a crowd almost bursting at the seams with excitement. I sensed a collective swoon as the bearded folkster entered the stage. I was impressed. This guy had fans. Not just any fans, BUT the kind of fans that aren’t satisfied unless they get their face licked.
The band played mostly their new songs, which, in my book, was a welcome surprise. Everyone should note that what every good folk ensemble needs is a BIG TAMBOURINE, which helped to keep rhythm as the band crossed the pantheon of “adult contemporary” musicians. Songs ranged from an upbeat Kristofferson vibe to the rolling drums of a Tom Petty track, to the baritone apathy of Lou Reed. And all of this with tinge of western attitude. Both the music and aesthetic of this band would make Sergio Leone proud. Someone give these kids a movie to score-stat.
In the middle of the set an endearing brunette (who shall forever remain nameless to me, and I think I sort of like it that way) regaled us with a beautiful ballad, that echoed almost perfectly off the rafters of the Sixth and I.
My only complaint about the show was that the same lush reverb that left the ballads sounding full an mysterious also made the more upbeat tunes seems muffled and cloudy. But, no one and no show are perfect.
Despite that, the band overcame these troubles with a firecracker of a closing set, the most memorable jam being “Let’s Win”. The song is about women in Ugandan villages who sing the song “Home” (by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros) as a call of forgiveness to the soldiers who might be ashamed of the acts committed during the war. “Home” was their way of telling these men, that though their sins are not forgotten, they are forgiven. On a similar, poignant note, “Let’s Win” is an homage to that sentiment and was a great lead into the band’s raucous closer “Man on Fire” (?). Even a musician with hundreds of live shows under his belt, which Alexander Ebert definitely does have, could not help but get caught up in the aura of the venue and the general good vibes emanating from the (enraptured?) audience. Giving in, he moved into the crowd like Baptist Eric Clapton at a whiskey revival.
Too be honest, I was not expecting to like the Alex and Fam as much I did. I am downloading the album as we speak, and I recommend you do the same. Check out more Alexander and Fam here.