Gnarls Barkley / Aug. 17, 2006 / New York (Central Park SummerStage)
Part of the Gnarls Barkley shtick is their playful identity, where they never really assume themselves, but instead riff on past popular culture entities.In a recent Billboard interview, Cee-Lo revealed he was a bit taken aback by the amount of touring that has already been undertaken by Gnarls Barkley, his runaway hit group with Danger Mouse. What seemingly was a one-off side project has turned into mega-success, and will probably carry them right into Grammy nods galore.
But on this night, the Gnarls camp was in good spirits and celebrating a newly confirmed platinum award for 1 million U.S. shipments of its debut, "St. Elsewhere." Part of the Gnarls Barkley shtick is their playful identity, where they never really assume themselves, but instead riff on past popular culture entities. Tonight's theme was "School of Rock," and the backing band assumed (dated) Catholic school uniforms, with Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse donning the appropriate "headmaster" gear.
To get the theme rolling, the band came out first and fired up the Pink Floyd classic, "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. II." "Go-Go Gadget Gospel" immediately followed suit, and whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
Throughout, the show was energetic and upbeat, although there were spots that seemed to tax Cee-Lo's voice. He did pull off the soulful redemption anthem "Who Cares?" nearly flawlessly. Toward the end though, he needed some water or a rest, as evident on the strained "Necromancer." Danger Mouse stood perched above everyone, dead center in stage rear. Mostly he sat solemn and was fully focused on his keyboards, but at times when the beats and tempos sped up, so did his animation.
At several points, Cee-Lo reminded us of how much he and his crew were fans of music, which is quite evident with their fun blend of neo-soul, funk, rock and hip-hop. But they also demonstrated this in a subtle way, first with a few different arrangements of songs. "Transformer" was the most noticeably changed. It was slow, and almost sultry sounding, with Cee-Lo stretching the words out as long as possible. Danger Mouse also funked up "Feng Shui" with a few keyboard twists.
The success of "Crazy" has spawned numerous covers by other bands this summer -- everyone from the Twilight Singers, Mates of States, the Kooks and the Raconteurs have played it live. Tonight, Gnarls returned the favor, oddly choosing "There Is An End" by the Greenhornes, whose bassist and drummer are the rhythm section of the Raconteurs. Musically, it held together just fine, even if no one in the audience knew the song. The obscure Doors song "Who Scared You" also made an appearance to little fanfare.
To no one's surprise, the crowd was saving up for the two singles, which were pocketed for the end. "Crazy" featured a nice string intro from the "G-Strings" and the show closer, a fast and soulful "Smiley Faces," left the crowd, well, smiling, and wanting more.
Here is Gnarls Barkley's set list:
"Another Brick in the Wall Pt. II"
"Go-Go Gadget Gospel"
"The Boogie Monster"
"Just a Thought"
"There Is An End"
"Gone Daddy Gone"
"The Last Time"
"Who Scared You"