Wilbur Theatre, August 6, 2008
To the cynic, the scene milling around in front of the sold-out Wilbur — a jarringly diverse gathering of teens, baby-boomers, yuppies, muttering scalpers, and dudes demonstrating every conceivable way to position a ballcap — could merely have been proof of the power of a hit single. Two years later, people just want to hear “Crazy” in person.
The luxuriously lush disco of NYC’s eight-piece Hercules and Love Affair made the wait easier on everybody. Their mythic motif played well with the Greek key meander lining the proscenium, and their Downtown 81 vibe (Kim Ann Foxman’s hair-up-to-there; the high glamor of stunningly leggy, busty, and transgendered vocalist Nomi; a pair of jacked horn players; the whole band donning torn-up “BANJEE” T-shirts) played well with just about everybody. Mingling throwback NYC disco with contemporary house and pop (and doing so without the help of Antony Hegarty’s high-profile trill), the Love Affair moved from era to era as smoothly as they morphed from song to song. By the time they concluded with their own themesong, they’d all but won over the house — a tall order from a potentially obsequious opening act.
Gnarls Barkley (or “Ceeeee-Loooooo!”, as the weirdly obsessed shriekers in the audience might have had it) had less success fusing old and new. Dressed as nerds (a bold step down from their elaborate costumage of yore) this band of seven (including the likeably mum Danger Mouse) flailed around the stage, desperately trying to dovetail ’60s soul pop with something more, let’s say, collegiate, but their uneven songs sounded as out of their element as the members looked. Although “Run” featured hot call-and-response action and “Blind Mary” stood firmly behind its lax hooklessness, Cee-Lo had to lose clothes to stoke enthusiasm — or just play “Crazy” already. And when Gnarls Barkley half-heartedly sprinted through that, the satisfied crowd seemed, well, merely satisfied. Even an optimist would be hard pressed not to see this as proof of the futility of a hit single.
: Live Reviews
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