|Broken Bells wrapping up their album promotional cycle for After the Disco by walking away from a space age type building in the California desert.|
Broken Bells @ The Orpheum Theater
Presented by Goldenvoice
in Los Angeles, CA.
Currently slotted at #304 in the list of top 500 artists on Last.fm, Broken Bells pulled into LA for a two night stand at the Orpheum Theater near the end of their promotional cycle for their recent LP, After the Disco. After a year of observation, I can safely say that the overriding value that characterizes Broken Bells and their art is dignity. Dignity is in notably short supply within the music industry, whether you are a multi-platinum artist forced to clown and caper for the cameras on a reality television show, an artist selling hundreds or thousands of records forced to abandon any hope of making money actually selling their music to people other than Fortune 500 corporations for advertising jingles, or an unknown artist being asked to sign a five record deal with no advance from a label with no track record of market success.
The impulse to essentially abandon ones moral and ethical compass in the face of the current conditions of the music industry seems almost irresistible, at least from my perspective of someone at the lower rungs of the ladder. Compromises are inevitable, and utter abandonment is perhaps the most seductively attractive position to take in 2014. For if a multi national beer or soda company wants to pay an artist a half million dollars (or a hundred thousand) to use a recording in a national advertising campaign, how many are in a position to refuse?
I'm sure if you asked Brian Burton or James Mercer directly, they would agree that they do not want to appear undignified. Ultimately, this may be the reason that Broken Bells is the 300th biggest act in the world right now on Last.fm instead of say, being the 150th biggest band. A steadfast refusal to pander to the basest elements of popular culture is in effect a limitation on growth, since the largest artists all seem to have that dynamic of engagement with the celebrity-industrial complex on lock.
Refusal to engage in clownish buffoonery aside, the actual music is memorable. I think Broken Bells are under engaged by music critics because of their (the music critics) bias towards ideas derived from romanticism and obsession with novelty derived from 20th century modernist precepts. One could plausibly make a comparison with the music of Broken Bells and the work of an Author like Charles Dickens, a popular success whose critical acclaim lagged multiple generations, only becoming fully canonized well into the 20th century.
Certainly, seeing Broken Bells in a theater setting, with outstanding backing visuals and lighting, four piece backing vocals and horns, horns, horns is something of a best case scenario. Also, the setting of the Orpheum Theater was memorable. I've now been to the Orpheum three times, and the similar Ace Theater two blocks away. Both theaters are great if you are sitting on the lower level, but the experience fades as you get into the middle and back of the balcony. At the same time, it seems like the crowd is better in the balcony, and the people who sit on the lower level tend to be older and less enthusiastic.
It was a successful conclusion to a well-exectued album promotional cycle, and I think it is fair to observe that there will be additional Broken Bells LPs in the future.