The potent mixture of Karen O and Danger Mouse brought their collaborative project Lux Prima to Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre for one of their only announced shows following a couple performances at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Their awe-inspiring Lux Prima album released back in March has shot to the top of my (and many others) short lists for the top 10 albums of 2019, and this disc proves to be a testimony of a seamless merging of two of the greatest minds in modern music.
These two icons have numerous projects going on, and that makes it even more amazing to see them have the time to collaborate at all. Karen Lee Orzolek, better known as Karen O, is the fire-breathing and stage-stomping frontwoman for the post-punk rock band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and although they have been largely inactive over the last several years, the rock trio did perform a sold out show at this very venue only a couple years back in conjunction with the reissue to their Fever To Tell album and corresponding documentary, and they have been popping up on some festival bills as of recent. Since Karen’s solo debut LP a couple years back, she has released a couple new solo singles, and has also been steadily popping up on soundtracks and other partnerships with everyone from Trent Reznor to Peaches.
Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, is a Grammy-winning musician who initially came on the scene as a master DJ over a decade ago, and shortly there after came to wider attention after mashing up Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album on a recording called The Grey Album. Since then, he has been one of the busiest artists in the biz who is widely celebrated for his potent partnerships as producer, engineer, and song writer for an impressive array of artists including Gorillaz, Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, ASAP ROCKY, Run the Jewels, Adele, and The Black Keys to name a few; as well doing a number of more high-profile collaborative group endeavors like Gnarls Barkley with CeeLo Green and Broken Bells with James Mercer of the indie rock band The Shins – the latter of which just dropped a new single called “Good Luck” in an advance of the release for their third full-length album.
This is a homecoming for both of these artists. Karen grew up in New Jersey, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs got their start here in NYC way back in 2000, and Danger Mouse grew up in Long Island. Brian Burton is known for bringing out a distinctive retro quality in most of his projects, with a clear obsession for the early 60’s Phil Spector-ish “wall of sound,” giving projects a sheen of vintage shimmer, and that’s just what he’s accomplished with Karen O. The album envelops itself in a sweeping orchestral sound that produces grand swells and crescendos that swoon the heart, along with a pounding rim-shot heavy drum charge that keeps your fingers snapping and feet tapping, and a lush soundscape that effortlessly merges great genres from 60’s Motown pop, 70’s Pink Floyd space-outs, 80’s new wave parties, drop-down 90’s trip hop raves, even some early 00’s riot girl roar. Karen O is a divine goddess of diversity, as she can belt out a scathing punk anthem just as effortlessly as a heart-wrenching emotional anthem, and her range from ethereal hymn to thunderous war cry is in full effect on this sweeping epic of an album.
Opening the night was a modest solo set by Andrew Savage, who often goes by A Savage, though he is best known as one of the frontmen of the art punk collective Parquet Courts. He played a pretty straightforward set with guitar in hand and seated in front of a music stand. Early on, he spun a tale about how he had been playing on the platform at Hoyt–Schermerhorn subway station in downtown Brooklyn earlier that day, when he noticed a couple people were listening, and when he eventually looked up, he discovered Karen O and Danger Mouse were listening, that’s when they offered him the opening spot for that night. This is obviously a deadpan gag you would have easily believed was true if you didn’t already know Danger produced Parquet Courts last album, and Karen O even appeared on their collaboration with Italian composer Daniele Luppi in 2017. He played a section of covers, songs from his 2017 solo album Thawing Dawn, and at least one classic Courts song “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth.”
The dynamic duo were joined on stage by an expansive band, including 3 violinists, 4 backing vocalists, a cellist, a guitarist, keyboardist, guitarist, and horn players that gave a fully symphonic feel, as they played through a straight playing of the Lux Prima album, complete with the all sweeping instrumental passages and ambient intros. Karen O came out dressed in an awe-striking sequin hooded cape and hood and personified her magical goddess radiance. She did mess up a couple times with coming in on time which called for a restart, but considering the fact that the two have only played a couple of shows together, I can’t blame her too much for being a little nervous. Still, she played it off with all her alluring and super-sweet charm, and thankfully the rest of the show went off without a hitch. It did make me sad to think that this project would not go on for the moment, but considering the quality and success of the album, I do feel as though it would be possible to pick back up with a follow up, as Danger Mouse has done with many of his other music ventures like Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells.
Article: Dean Keim