“Crazy,” the vibrant and rich song that defined Gnarls Barkley as much as it provided the soundtrack for 2006, will cast a mighty shadow for Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse as long as they continue to collaborate under this title. They continue to be quite successful as a live act, delivering at the Hollywood Bowl a bold stage show that focuses on a single dynamic personality and a mish-mosh of hip-hop, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll that is delivered in compelling fashion.
Of the three acts brought together under the KCRW World Festival umbrella, Gnarls Barkley was the most sprawling musically, although they took a back seat to Senegal’s Fallou Dieng when it came to displaying joyfulness. (At the Bowl, Cee-Lo & Danger Mouse left behind the theatrics that brought an extra level of fun to previous Southern California shows.)
Opener Deerhoof played a set of noisy pop rooted in deconstructed bits from ’70s hard rock acts such as Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper; it’s Sonic Youth for the “Guitar Hero” generation. Fallou Dieng delivered a jubilant 45 minutes anchored by a trio of percussionists and peppered with some riveting, circular playing from guitarist Assane Seck.
Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo entered the stage in blue smoking jackets while the band played a dance groove culled straight from Archie Bell and the Drells records made in the late ’60s. Those simple chord progressions were a signifier of much of the Gnarls oeuvre: The duo are students of pop hooks and old records serve as melodic bait. They evoke the Mamas and the Papas in “Surprise,” psychedelic rock in “Storm Coming,” Philly soul in “Going On” and their own updated amalgamation of gospel and rock ‘n’ roll in “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” and “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster).”
They cover the Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone” and Radiohead’s “Reckoner”; taken collectively, it reveals two artists interested in exploring the timeless qualities of pop, rock and soul rather than attempting to write a sequel to “Crazy” and re-create their golden moment in the sun.