If James Mercer was the “all-star” that put the fannies in the seats, then Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) was the utility player in the 7-man roster for Broken Bells’ performance last night at a sold-out Vic Theatre. The lanky Burton hopped from behind the drum kit onto guitar, as well as handling keyboard duties, sometimes within the same song.
Early on there was very little to set these songs apart from feeling like a Shins performance, but as the evening wore on Broken Bells coalesced as a group, shining most brightly during their encore.
The seven-piece played for a shade over an hour and since they only have one album, fleshed out the set with some inspired covers. Early on there was a rendition of ‘Crimson And Clover’ and later ‘You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me’ made famous by Smokey Robinson, and more recently covered on record by She & Him. However the best non Broken Bells song of the night, in my estimation, was ‘Insane Lullaby’ from the soon to be officially released Dark Night Of The Soul, a collaboration between Danger Mouse and the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse.
There are certainly a few down tempo songs on the Broken Bells album that lag, but those moments were not to be found on Monday night. My favorite song in their canon remains the falsetto-voiced ‘The Ghost Inside.’ Another highlight was ‘Mongrel Heart’ with its guitar riff that calls to mind The Cure. I am a definite fan of James Mercer and he seems looser and less guarded with Broken Bells than with The Shins. Mercer even stopped the band and had them restart ‘Citizen,’ which he identified as his favorite song.
Although this group feels much like Danger Mouse’s short-lived Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells would appear to have stronger songwriting and a less gimmicky style. One thing they could work on would be to have a more captivating backdrop. The films and images that were projected behind them really did little to add to the stage ambiance.