A middle-aged guy took air strumming and drumming to a new level at the Broken Bells show Oct. 11 at Terminal 5 in NYC. Switching back and forth from air guitar to air drum to even air piano (a sight that hadn't been seen since the "Separate Ways" Journey video), the gentleman truly took the art of imaginary simulation to a new level. Meanwhile, on stage, Brian Burton AKA Danger Mouse did everything that dude couldn't.
Interchanging between drums, keys, and guitar - sometimes during the same song - the producer and mix master proved to a live audience what we've already known for years on his recorded tracks on his own, with Gnarls Barkley, or behind the scenes with Beck: he's the most talented creative force in music working today.
Broken Bells co-pilot James Mercer, of Shins fame, was also on point at the sold-out NYC show, although he looked the part of a math teacher more than a rock star. But, that's to be expected. No one's ever been accused of banging their head to a Shins song. Anyway, the unlikely pair, backed by an impressive mix of musicians and a white curtain backdrop playing trippy hippy images, rocked the crowd performing tunes off their well-received self-titled debut album including breakout hit "The High Road." During a 14-song setlist, Mercer and Burton proved their side project isn't simply that - it's a highly functioning band that churns out rocking, moody pop that comes close to rivaling some of their more headline-grabby work. Highlights of the night included house-rocking versions of album cuts "Vaporize" and "Mongrol Heart," and an awesome cover of The Black Keys' "Everlasting Love."
While they lose points for being unshowy in a sort of Weezer live performance way (Read: little interaction with the crowd ), the band played with authority and underlined once again that they won't be a one-hit wonder. While I long for a new Shins record, I'm totally cool if a follow-up Bells disc comes first... and so is that air-swinging audience member, I'm sure.
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