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A strange night in the sand with Gnarls Barkley

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Reflections from Gnarls Barkley’s June 21 show at Mandalay Bay Beach ...

1. Six thousand miles. That’s roughly the distance — as the crow files — from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Las Vegas. Long way to come to play one song, don’t cha think? Yet that’s apparently what Brazilian Seu Jorge did Saturday night, when he took the stage during Thievery Corporation’s set, sang a tune and disappeared. And it’s not like he was some unannounced guest, either; he’s a billed performer on the Gnarls/Thievery “Outernational Tour.” The fact that Jorge’s lone cut was, by far, the best number we heard all night made his vanishing act all the more disheartening.

2. While we’re at it, why did Manhattan-based bossa nova vocalist Bebel Gilberto bother to make the trip? We arrived inside the venue a few minutes before 8 p.m. (the line to get in was still snaked outside), and got to hear Gilberto and her band perform -- count ’em --two songs. She said something about the heat, waved goodbye and poof!, off she went. Maybe she and Jorge had 9 p.m. dinner reservations at Samba Steakhouse …

3. Thievery Corporation was kinda happening at the start -- the down-tempo specialists blended electronic and organic sounds while cycling four different vocalists through a lineup that included two percussionists and a sometime sitar player. But then, rather suddenly, a stylistically varied Thievery set turned into a straight reggae barrage -- like, a whole lot of really nondescript reggae that did little to warm a rather blasé crowd up for Gnarls Barkley.

4. The wait between Thievery and Gnarls felt long, probably because it was -- around 40 minutes between acts. At one point during the break, a film about “global cooling” (an apparent fight against global warming) played onscreen, with actor Casey Affleck imploring us to do our part. Okay, but only because he were so awesome in Ocean’s Thirteen.

5. Gnarls Barkley shouldn’t be headlining. Somebody had to say it. Look, “Crazy” was crazy fun … two years ago. And Gnarls is a solid live band; I actually really enjoyed them the last time they played Vegas. Except that time Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse were opening, for Kanye West -- a role that suits them far better at this stage of their career. Though their blend of soul, bubblegum pop and occasionally heavy-ish rock theoretically should have worked at the Beach, I’ve seen way, way, way more enthusiastic crowds for The B-52’s or even Pat Benatar out there. Saturday’s crowd thinned considerably by the end of Gnarls’ hourlong performance, and those that stuck around for “Crazy” barely had energy left to sing along by the time it arrived, one song before the strange night’s encore-less finish.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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