Even Hail Can’t Derail Broken Bells

October 12th, 2010

Broken Bells – Terminal 5 – October 11, 2010

Broken Bells - Terminal 5 - October 11, 2010

Hail is kind of a strange meteorological phenomenon, seemingly defying logic: It’s 65 degrees outside and big balls of ice are putting dents in the sidewalk? But hail it did on Monday night, as a sold-out crowd made its way toward Terminal 5. The band they came to see, Broken Bells, also defies logic—a mash-up of the Shins’ James Mercer and Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse—they seem to be an entity entirely of the studio and yet, there they were, an ensemble seven strong, performing live onstage.

A white-sheet backdrop projected images on a graph-paper background, giving the show a feel of being born from a laboratory notebook, the detailed results of some well-reasoned experiment. The classical music playing over the PA was overtaken as the band took the stage and seamlessly launched into their dreamy, psychedelic pop. At first, almost exclusively drawing from their 2010 self-titled release, Danger Mouse and Mercer eased their way into the set. Things turned toward the more engaging with the third tune, “The High Road,” with a setting sun projected behind them and the stage basked in matching orange lights.

Seven musicians seemed like too many, not nearly enough and just the right number all at once. Multiple guitars and keyboards fleshed out just the right notes to wrap up Mercer’s vocals. Burton quietly made his presence felt moving from drum kit to electric piano and even a song or two on guitar. For such a delicate balance of sounds, the band seemed to impressively operate without a clear leader. As the show progressed, a couple of new songs were played with a somewhat darker, edgier sound, hinting at more to come from Broken Bells. Following a tidy set, the band returned for a multisong encore, highlighted by a cover of the Black Keys’ “Everlasting Light,” that settled into a nice jam to send Mercer and Danger out, as the band kept on going, playing long enough to ensure that it was pouring once again when everyone left the venue. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Greg Aiello |