Broken Bells descended on First Avenue on Monday night in the midst of a very brief North American tour. Broken bells has been touring for nine months behind their eponymous album now, so it was no surprise when they put on one of the tightest and most true to the album shoes of they year.
Luckily for me and the rest of the sold out crowd Broken Bells dragged opening band Maps & Atlases along with them. Going into the concert I had a whopping one-song long knowledge of this band. Going out I had a T-Shirt and a CD. The thing that made Maps & Atlases so great was a mixture of stage presence, the desire to have fun, and great music. Looking like a foursome confused about what direction they wanted to take musically (the lead singer looked like a cross between Robin Pecknold [looks] and Ezra Koenig [clothes],) they blended their obvious influences perfectly and put on a great show. The voice was very similar to The Tallest Man on Earth, while the bass lines in many songs were strikingly alike to Vampire Weekend. Somehow this combination worked perfectly. A slew of auxiliary percussion and a dancing bassist didn't hurt either, and Maps & Atlases turned out as one of the best bands I've seen in a while.
Although Maps & Atlases set the bar extremely high Broken Bells far exceed them, although not with the same tools that their support act had used. What Broken Bells lacked in stage personality (Danger Mouse never looked at the crowd,) they made up for in light show, accuracy, and sonic beauty. I was surprised from the minute opener "October" started with the accuracy of the instrumentation and James Mercer's voice. I came in expecting the worst from James' voice and I was blown away. They played every song from their album, a new song, a Dark Night of the Soul Song, and a spot on Neil Young cover. Although some of the songs from the middle of their good but not great debut album dragged along, the covers and rarity by far made up for it, as those were some of the highlights of the show.
Broken Bells came, saw, and conquered in their first and very likely only Minneapolis appearance, converting me from casual fan to rabid believer.