Gnarls Barkley @ The Briggs and Stratton Big Backyard
June 26, 2008
A singing rapper, a loveable madman, a smiling depressive: Cee-Lo is one of pop music’s most paradoxical figures. And with Gnarls Barkley, he’s found the perfect outlet for his split personalities: a band that appeases both the old-fashioned entertainer and the closet freak inside him. It was the old-fashioned entertainer that dominated Thursday’s show, the beaming singer who flaunts his love of life even when singing songs about ending it.
Gnarls Barkley’s albums bustle with modernity, thanks to producer Danger Mouse’s frantic beats. In concert, however, Danger Mouse trades his laptop for an organ and drops the choppiness of his recorded compositions in favor of smoother, live-band arrangements. On Gnarls Barkley’s records, passages of ’60s soul, psychedelia and go-go hint at kitsch, but when filtered through live players, these retro sounds are stripped of all irony. Even the band’s signature costumes (for this show, 1950s Buddy Holly-styled) are a genuine throwback to entertainment’s past, a time when bands like the Four Tops would never consider taking the stage without coordinating first.