What do you get when you cross The Shins and Danger Mouse with a smidge of Duran Duran influence? You get Broken Bells. The band is composed of artist-producer Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) and James Mercer, the lead vocalist and guitarist for the indie rock band The Shins. Broken Bells compose and create as a duo, but are joined by a full band on tour. The live band often includes sidemen Nate Walcott and Nik Freitas from Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and Jonathan Hischke and Dan Elkan, both ex-members of Hella.
Broken Bells for all intents and purposes came together quite by accident in 2004. Burton and Mercer were both playing the Rockside Festival and compared notes on their musical likes and influences. They each decided it would be a great idea to collaborate and thus Broken Bells was born. Since that time, they have put out two albums and an EP, of which all were represented at their SOLD OUT New Orleans Civic show, with special support from Au Revoir Simone.
To say the Broken Bells show was a visual extravaganza would be a vast understatement. The futuristic set was surrounded by all types of moving and stationary lights. An orb of sorts was in the center of the stage and enabled some amazing projections on the huge screen behind the band. The space was divided up so each member could comfortably hone their craft. At times, Danger Mouse would take over drummer duties and let the drummer go crazy on bass.
The packed crowd seemed to know every song, even the deeper album cuts. That in turn seemed to keep the band focused on the task at hand. The set was almost 50/50 old and new and a track off the EP. Toward the end of the set, the band was joined on stage by Au Revoir Simone for background vocal support on three songs. The main set ended with their first single, “The High Road” and garnered the most audience response, at times you could hear the choirs echoing all throughout the Civic. After a short break, the band took back to the stage amidst the grand audience projection and played three more songs.
Personal highlights for me included “The Angel and the Fool” and “Holding on for Life.” If you went into the show expecting to find out what make the band tick, you probably left a bit disappointed as the band had little reaction with the crowd and each other for that matter. One thing for certain though, you can clearly see the love for music that brought Burton and Mercer together in the first place.
The Ghost Inside
After the Disco
The Angel and the Fool
Holding On for Life
Sailing to Nowhere
The Changing Lights
Leave It Alone
The High Road