Broken Bells made the Bay Area debut of their new album After the Disco Saturday night at a sold out Fox Theater in Oakland. The seemingly-unlikely duo consisting of Brian Burton (AKA Danger Mouse) and The Shins frontman James Mercer brought the crowd to life with its blend of traditional rock riffs, synth, and samples.
Burton — who is known for pushing the envelope with Gnarls Barkley, The Gorillaz, and, of course, The Grey Album, his reimagining of the Beatles White Album melded with lyrics from Jay Z‘s The Black Album — has found a true partner in Mercer. Mercer’s uncanny ability to hit every note across multiple octaves, especially higher octaves, allows the duo to create music that seems to flow freely in and out of different genres. “Holding on for Life” makes you feel like you are seeing the Gibb brothers in the 70s, and songs like “After the Disco” are right at home in today’s alternative Top 40.
I have seen James Mercer before, with The Shins, and he knows how to grab your attention, wearing his emotions freely as he sings and plays the guitar. Burton, by contrast, lets the music flow from his body as if in a trance, all of his energy going into the music rather than performance. (Check out the pictures below to see the contrast.) It was also great to see opening act Au Revoir Simone join the band and provide backup vocals for that full sound we are used to hearing on the albums.
I would definitely recommend seeing the act next time they are in town. This isn’t just a side project or afterthought; this is two extremely talented artists who continue to push the envelope and create great music.
Check out the “After the Disco” from the duo here: