A couple of things stood out about Monday evening’s Broken Bells show at the Schnitz. First, it was at the Schnitz, a venue often utilized by orchestras and philharmonics that is so damn pretty it makes you sick. Why, then, were James Mercer, Danger Mouse and co. bringing their vintage pop to these hallowed walls? Sure, the group is catchy and downright impressive during long stretches of latest release, After The Disco. But the quartet’s reliance on studio technique did not fare entirely well in Portland’s most prestigious concert hall. On a stage so grand, it almost feels like the audience's eyes are trained to scan for details. Seeing Mercer and Burton playing simple riffs while more complicated effects were piped in electronically was a tad disappointing.
Yet, Mercer is a true showman. The man’s pipes are a treasure, and seeing this new, Bee Gees-esque side of him is refreshing. The multimedia display—cosmic in theme, full of pleasing pinks and teals—accompanied the music fetchingly. There was no doubting the production quality. And, from time to time, the band would even take off their sport coats and jam for a measure or two.
With two records to is name, Broken Bells is far too young an act to play the Schnitz (this is to say nothing of opening act Cayucas). Luckily, the prowess of Burton and Mercer came through enough in flickers to make it worthwhile. The band’s hits stood out the most (“The High Road,” “Holding On For Life”)—perhaps because I’m so accustomed to hearing them on the radio, it was refreshing to see some new life breathed into them. And while the occasional dimly-lit duet felt a little too tailor-made for Palladia TV, stripped-down tracks like “Leave It Alone” and “The Angel And The Fool” fared well, proof that while the studio may be their home, these two can still write a pretty mean song.