Last Night: Broken Bells at the Music Box

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Andrew Youssef

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The Hype: A lot of excitement was generated upon the announcement of the collaboration between James Mercer of The Shins and producer extraordinaire Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton in the form of Broken Bells. It was the second night of their tour and the sold-out Music Box was eager to hear some sonic treats from the band.
The Show: Blue lights illuminated the stage as an assortment of shaped visuals were projected on a large backdrop when Broken Bells appeared from the side of the stage to a large ovation. Danger Mouse sat behind a gold dusted drum set while James Mercer strapped on his Vox guitar and started strumming the shimmering chords of "Vaporize." 
 
A six-member band helped recreate the multiple musical nuances of the song with floating keyboards, extra percussion and propulsive bass. The wobbly keyboard notes of "The High Road" smoothly blended with the background vocal harmonies as Mercer's falsetto floated above the arrangement. If you dissect the various layers of the songs, one can detect Mercer's songwriting and Burton's sonic shading that make the songs more expansive.
 
The sleepwalking gaze of "Your Head Is On Fire" was expertly recreated with an added dose of hallucinogenic inducing guitars. Some of the crowd started to clap during "The Ghost Inside" with its heavy electronic drum sample blended with hand claps. Danger Mouse left his drum kit to pop behind a Rhodes piano for the dusky ballad "Citizen." 
 
Mercer vocally channeled the '60s with his accurate cover of Tommy James and The Shondells "Crimson and Clover.""The Mall and The Misery" is my favorite track from their album with its cutting slide guitars and bouncing bass line wrapped up with some synthesizer string keyboards that closed out their main set. 
 
Mercer and Danger Mouse would later pay tribute to Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse by playing "Insane Lullaby" from Dark Night of the Soul. The evening ended with the piano twinkle of "October." Broken Bells are more polished as a band compared to when I caught them at the Troubadour a few months ago. It's no wonder there is already talk of a recording a second Broken Bells album. 

The Morning Benders have made the leap from headlining the Detroit Bar to efficiently opening up for Broken Bells. Their excellent new album, Big Echo, continues to garner praise with its catchy singles like "Promises" and "Excuses." Lead singer and guitarist Chris Chu even inspired the stoic Los Angeles audience to dance a little bit. No small feat all things considered. The Carson Daly crew was on hand to record their performance, so keep an eye out.
 
The Crowd: Equally split between fans of The Shins and Gnarls Barkley. Unfortunately, there was a contingent of "fans" that just wanted to be at the hottest show of the evening. Rumor has it Adrian Grenier was milling around and I saw the members of Passion Pit.
 
Overheard: "Did the Lakers win?"
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