That’s what I always say, crossing over the 520 bridge to go into Seattle to see a weekday show, especially when it’s a show I have looked forward to for months. You could tell me, hey Marianne, why don’t you try to leave the house a little earlier eh, but then I would hit you on the forehead with a spoon. Stupid rush hour traffic, I need a hovercraft to get me to the Broken Bells on time. This might be the show I most wanted to see this year, this collaboration between the lovely and talented James Mercer of the Shins, supah-cool producer/instrumentalist Brian Burton (otherwise known as Danger Mouse; I have trouble calling a grown man “Danger Mouse,” a bit) and some sweet sidemen to round out the band. The tickets went on sale for the Showbox as I was flying to Washington, D.C. for spring break, and I imagine I looked quite mental desperately tapping away at my iPhone as I walked to baggage claim at Reagan International. I got my tickets, and the show sold out soon afterwards.

It took a little bit of time for their album to win me over. Like perhaps more than a few fans and critics, I was expecting a lot from the project when I first heard of it. James Mercer is my go-to guy for lessons on flawless singing (honestly, when does this guy ever blow a note…god!) and on how to write gorgeous melodies paired with intelligent, layered lyrics. He may look like an accountant who has lost his way somehow and landed onstage with a guitar, but no matter. There’s fire there, and accountancy’s loss is our gain. Brian Burton has a knack for finding the strengths of all the artists he works with – what a good producer should do, of course – and he also is clever and innovative at uncovering what always seems to be this perfect mix of retro and current sounds. But on a quick first listen, I wasn’t blown away by Broken Bells. It’s not a flashy record; there’s nothing that reaches out and grabs you by the throat. It’s somewhat reserved and measured, thoughtful and maybe a little mysterious; the girl in the shadows at the dance.

What happened was this: after a few weeks with the album, I realized that bits and pieces of it were seeping into my brain. I’d find myself singing, “It’s too late to change your mind…you let loss be your guide,” or humming the opening piano notes to “October.” I’d hear the clicky-clap beats of “The Ghost Inside” on the radio and I would smile and turn it up. I started to notice the beauty in the details of the arrangements, the harmonies, the way Mercer’s voice floated effortlessly from the lowest parts of his range to a powerful falsetto. I noticed that the wallflower was the prettiest girl there. And so it became my favorite album of this year, easily. And that is why I swore at traffic on the 520, chowed down another burger and fries in the Showbox’s Green Room to get an early entry ticket into the show, and why I stood along with other fans at the front of the stage to hear them play.

The evening began with openers the Morning Benders, from San Francisco, four young men (who look like, 15 years old or something, geez) who have been getting some seriously good critical praise and some pretty big indie opening spots over the past couple of years. It’s a little hard for me to describe their sound, in part because the sound mix didn’t favor Chris Chu’s lead vocals at my vantage point. I heard a lot of shoegazey guitar and simple, hard-strummed bass, which is just fine by me, but without hearing much of what else was being done in the songs, it was a bit lost on me, I’m afraid. It wasn’t until the last song of their set, with their best-known song, “Excuses,” that I was able to go, “Ah ha! There’s a song there!” It’s very catchy, and also very different from the rest of their material, with its repeated singalong vocal riff. Chu thanked the crowd for having “the perfect vibe for a Tuesday night,” which was being enthusiastic without being obnoxiously drunk. Which was true, come to think of it.

After the Morning Benders left the stage, there was a strange marathon of roadies and stage managers untangling many giant black cords on the stage (why? the dude next to me wondered with me, where did all that mess come from?). After the tuning and placement of a few vintage guitars, amps, a golden sparkle drumset, and many keyboards took place, Broken Bells unassumingly walked on the stage (like they were going to come out in KISS gear, right, ha) and began their set with “Vaporize.” Tragically for my small camera, their stage lighting was minimal so I didn’t get the all the shots I had hoped for, but did manage a few (more of which are here).

And damn Mercer didn’t miss a note. I gotta ask him how he does that, I really do. Swoon. In my humble little opinion, the band’s live work is even superior to the recording – stronger, more dynamic, especially noticeable in – again – the vocals, and the crunchy driving guitar work, which you can hear here in “The High Road” and “The Ghost Inside.”

The performance stayed very faithful to the album, as expected. One got the feeling that this new band was still feeling its way a bit, in a very very competent way, but not at this point ready or maybe even wanting to veer off the track much. This was a very cool surprise: a delicious cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover.”

Set list on the stage is always welcome, but it told me something else as well: this is going to a short concert. It seemed like just as the band was really getting warmed up and the crowd in a good and appreciate groove, the band was leaving the stage. Keep in mind, this was at the 40 minute mark. They did return to play two more songs to round it out to about an hour, but it leaves me wondering what the thought is behind this. It’s frustrating when you know that Broken Bells would have an amazing catalogue of material to pull from to extend their show, but chose not to. Fair enough – if you want the crowd to think “Broken Bells” and not past work, that’s OK – but why not throw in at least a couple more cool covers? It sure seemed liked the band loved playing “Crimson and Clover” and the crowd dug it, so work up a couple more. It’s fun, and you don’t leave people looking at their watches and going, “Whoa! Really?” Which is a real shame, because the concert was so good.

Having danced with the wallflower, even if for a relatively brief time, I can say it was a wonderful night, and worth all the traffic, artery-clogging burgers, and ticket-buying frenzy from across the country. Come back soon, Broken Bells. I’ll teach you how to play the Kinks’ “Picture Book” for an encore. (P.S. It sounds a lot like the Shins’ “Turn A Square.” Heh.)