Broken Bells and Morning Benders
The crowd that pressed up against the stage at the Gothic for the opening set of The Morning Benders consisted mostly of girls screaming with abandon for the admittedly adorable frontman Chris Chu. A small contingency was dedicated to dancing. In my past experience, the Morning Benders have put on an engaging and enchanting performance, fueled by an enthusiasm that goaded even my clumsy feet into what could passably be called grooving. But the Gothic seemed to swallow their sunny beats and there was less cohesion than I expected. The vocals got lost; the bass’ low end was barely a whisper. Some of the songs off the recent Big Echo provided fullness to the set and felt more comfortable. When they ended on “Excuses,” their sauntering, golden single, it felt a little bittersweet, and I hoped that the lack of energy would remedy itself with a good night’s sleep (as we know all touring musicians are bound to get).
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Broken Bells took the stage after a dramatically long pause for set-up. Taking the stage with five additional band members, James Mercer and Danger Mouse presented opposite stage presences, with Danger Mouse exuding a cool calm even while banging on the centrally-placed drum set, and Mercer’s seasoned enthusiasm presenting a relatable and fun presence. I was curious to see how their debut album’s sound would translate to a space like the Gothic. With the additional band members, the tunes filled the crowded room and sounded even better than they do recorded. I was especially delighted with the delegation of all percussion to one person, holding sometimes two tambourines and banging on suspended wood blocks.
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From covering Smoky Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold On Me” to the fuzzy, psychedelic slides flashing on the stage, it was a well honed and immersive show. Danger Mouse and James Mercer married diverging musical styles on their wildly successful record, and clearly they play that tension well in a live setting. It’s a collaboration that was validated to me by their show. I’d be excited to see how they continue to perform together. Meanwhile, I would like to begin my own career as a professional tambourine player so I can get in on the next tour.