Broken Bells @ Humphreys by the Bay, San Diego, Ca.
by Thirst’n Howl III
Broken Bells has been an unforeseen combination, somewhat akin to the beauty of the Kings’ (Elvis, duh!) favorite meal (Toasted sandwich,Peanut Butter, and Bananas). Try one and you will see what the love affair is all about. When James Mercer and Danger Mouse began to collobarate, I harbored some principal fears. Would Mercers’ Shins sound and voice make it too soft and mushy, would Danger Mouses’ beats background make it too crisp and crunchy (are those beat references?? Well at least we know they are toasted sandwich references) As much as this conundrum sounds difficult to overcome and be a delectable treat, they have indeed overcome. The noise they have been able to produce is delicious for the ears and seeing them live is akin to sensory overload.
Humphreys by the Bay is a surreal location nestled in the fingerling bays of San Diego. The stage sits between the palm trees and the water smothered in boats. As the band took the stage, the entirety of those there rose to their feet and cheered. This was to be the first night of the first tour for Broken Bells. First night of their First tour!!
Fear of a shaky start was definitely present. It was a fear unfounded. They were flawless. The sound of Broken Bells is a slight deviation from The Shins. Trepidation was part of my pre-show warmup. I was unsure how the man behind the blend of The Beatles/Jay-Z and Gnarls Barkley would merge with the silvery voiced frontman from The Shins. The truth of the matter is that his presence is noticed in a handful of songs, but the feel is more of an upgrade akin to The Shins 2.0. Lead off song was “Vaporize” which was quickly followed up by “The High Road” and the audience was hooked. Bodies swayed and heads swooned. The dominant song of the eve though was a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells “Crimson and Clover”. The way Mercers’ voice colored the song, it became his song. The encore brought Danger Mouse from behind the drums out to the piano and the entire seated audience rushed to the stage and ended the night afoot and content.