By Joshua Mellin | December 14th, 2010
James Mercer (of The Shins fame) and Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) brought the most recent of their many side projects, Broken Bells, to the Vic Theatre in Chicago recently.
Burton transitioned between keys, drums, and even strummed at a guitar. Both Burton and Mercer are artists who know exactly what a song is supposed to sound like; it’s the genius of common sense that makes Burton one of the best producers of the decade and Mercer one of the most distinguished songwriters.
In a quick-paced, 75-minute set, Broken Bells buzzed through most of their debut album and even featured Mercer’s Sparklehorse collaboration “Insane Lullaby,” a track produced by Danger Mouse before the death of Mark Linkous.
According to a press release, Mercer and Burton will continue to work as a band in the future and plan to record a follow-up album. But first, Mercer will be returning to his newly reformed The Shins, having dropped band veterans Marty Crandall (keyboard) and Jesse Sandoval (drums) in favor of Grand Archive’s Ron Lewis and Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer.
Meanwhile, Burton will continue putting the finishing touches on his five-year-long Rome project, a tribute to “Spaghetti Western” films of the 60s and 70s, recorded in a neo-classical church carved out of an ancient catacomb in Rome. Along with Italian composer Daniele Luppi, the album features Jack White and Norah Jones on vocals.
The duo ended the night with a stripped down encore that featured a cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” before diving into an extended cut of one of the best tracks of the year, “The Mall and Misery.” To close out the show, Mercer and Burton strolled off stage to showcase the quality of their five piece backing band, letting each instrument burn out on its own pace.