Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gnarls Barkley @ Stubb's, 9.26.08

To say Danger Mouse has had a good year would be the understatement of the year. The man who sprung to popularity in 2004 by mashing-up Jay-Z with The Beatles on The Grey Album has now solidified himself as one of the top creative minds in music today. For 2008 he produced the impressive Attack & Release from The Black Keys, partnered with Martina Topley-Bird for her critically-acclaimed sophomore release in the UK, and helped Beck craft what could be the best album of the year with Modern Guilt. Still, in between all that he found time to reteam with veteran hip-hopper Cee-Lo for the follow up to their first Gnarls Barkley album. The second effort, aptly titled The Odd Couple, is another collection that is at times hip-hop, other times soul, and more times an alternative blend that could fit in on any radio station across the dial. The duo headlined an official ACL After Party this past Friday (9/26) at Stubb’s.

With the crowd wound up by a high energy performance from opening act
CSS, the chants of “Cee-Lo!” and “Danger!” began before they took the stage. Gnarls Barkley greeted the crowd wearing snazzy gold blazers while their backup band was decked in outfits likes it was a Boyz II Men flashback. They wasted no time hitting some of their most popular songs right off the bat: “Gone Baby Gone,” “Run,” and “Going On.”

Danger Mouse as normal was the quiet man, sitting at an old-style organ and letting his music take the attention. His head stayed down most of the time and for the most part only faced the crowd to switch over to play the xylophone. Cee-Lo on the other hand took center stage and showed why he has been one of the best live performers in hip-hop for over a decade. Whether it was his Goodie Mob days, his solo stint, or now with Gnarls Barkley—he has consistently been a high-octane performer putting his all into every show.

Amping up the guitar added a heavier rock feel to the introspective “Just a Thought.” As Cee-Lo belted out, “And I’ve tried everything but suicide, but it’s crossed my mind,” with a little bit of head-banging, more than a few people caught the bug and some slight moshing began at the front of the stage. To put a twist on another song from their debut, they turned the originally drum ‘n bass laced “Transformer” into a slow tempo soul tune. The new takes on both were a pleasant surprise.

The highlight of the show came during the encore when they covered Radiohead’s latest single “Reckoner.” Those familiar with the song know the key to “Reckoner” is not the lyrics (as they are virtually undecipherable) or the hypnotizing loop—it’s the vocal harmonizing that elevates continuously through the song and dips just before erupting in the breakdown. Thom Yorke should be proud of how Cee-Lo handled those vocals; he belted out like he was infected by the holy ghost.

These two superstars have a long list of individual accomplishments under their respective belts, but as of yet none of them have matched the triumph of their collaboration as Gnarls Barkley.   Cee-Lo has promised that he and Danger Mouse will record at least one more album together; perhaps to cap off a trilogy of one of the most successful groups of recent times.  

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