Gnarls Barkley

Gnarls Barkley

If you thought Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse were on the way down, that does make you crazy. Astoria 2, London (July 8)

Something odd is going down. We’re at central London’s pokiest mid-range venue and one of the most recognisable double acts in pop have resorted to flogging excess tickets on the door after failing to sell the place out. Inside, the atmosphere is significantly less than zero as London rockers The Shortwave Set attempt a tepid warm up. Even the presence of Har Mar Superstar at the merch stall doesn’t seem to be lighting anyone’s fire. Granted, matters seem a little less strange when you realise that in many people’s eyes Gnarls Barkley are still labelled as a one-hit – but what a hit – wonder, while their last album, ‘The Odd Couple’, despite displaying many different flavours of psyche-scouring genius, was far from the chart smash it should have been.

So as the minutes tick down to showtime, NME can’t help but think that we’re going to be in for some kind of epically half-arsed, career-flagellating bomb of a show. Oh, how wrong we were. In a gracious display of good old-fashioned manners, Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse take to the stage not a minute past call-time. The pair have dispensed with the daft fancy dress of yore, and are garbed as seriously as we’ve ever seen them, in fashionably uncool ’80s dinner suits complete with dicky bows that’d make anyone but them look like card-carrying members of the Plonkers’ Society. “OK,” rumbles Cee-Lo, right before kicking into a ferocious ‘Charity Case’, “let’s have a party!” He might as well have waved a magic wand and yelled out ‘Abracadabra!’ though, because the place is now packed and the crowd whoop and gyrate under flashing rainbows of light while thudding heaps of soul send disco-infused shivers down numerous spines.

Cee-Lo, quite rightly, looks very smug indeed. On a roll, he drives his deliciously downy gospel vocals through ‘Blind Mary’, ‘Neighbors’, ‘Surprise’ and then, of course, ‘Crazy’ – which he follows with an only half-joked “and don’t ask me to sing it again”. To Cee-Lo’s right sits Danger Mouse, clearly tonight’s silent partner, muttering not a word throughout. In fact, he seems happy enough, bobbing away at his double-sided organ, hunched over the keys, apparently basing his stage persona on Schroeder, the toy piano-playing mini-maestro from cartoon strip Peanuts. Silence might well be golden, but even more precious and worthy of congratulations is pulling a triumphant gig like this out of the bag. We’ve put our Interflora order in already – expect something nice, chaps.

Leonie Cooper