All the single lads would have been wise to head down to New York City cabaret (Le) Poisson Rouge last night, as hundreds of pretty young things queued up in the freezing rain for the sold-out Dead Man's Bones concert. We're betting the preponderance of chicas had something to do with the fact that one-half of the gothic folk band is Oscar-nominated (and oh-so swoonworthy) actor Ryan Gosling. In fact, I was surprised I didn't spy even one clandestine copy of "The Notebook" peeking out of a purse, begging for an autograph.
The sleek Greenwich Village club was a fitting location for the kooky, spooky show. The red and blue-lit space lent an intimate feel, while a haunted house backdrop complete with twinkling lights upped the festive vibe. In lieu of an opening act, the boys invited local performers to participate in a talent show — though freak show would have perhaps been more fitting verbiage. There was Amazing Amy, a 54-year-old contortionist, who, though she had two torn rotator cuffs and a hip replacement, folded her body into a pretzel with the ease of a nubile 22-year-old yogi. There was a baroque opera singing duo dressed like characters out of "Arabian Nights." There was a double jointed fellow who did a funny little jig, tossing around a red hat. A guy who made sound effects on a Yamaha keyboard (a dubious talent at best). And then there was the Vocaholic acapella group from New York University whose take on M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" (including bang-bang and cha-ching sound effects) was slightly genius (take note, "Glee").
Then came what the crowd of eager, googly eyed women were waiting for: Ryan and partner Zach Shields took the stage, clad in matching black-vest-white-button-up ensembles.
The pair (seen below in a publicity shot for the band — Ryan is on the left) met four years ago in Toronto while dating sisters and bonded over a shared love for the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. Eager to express their interest in the eerie, the two began penning a monster love story for the stage, but soon realized an album might be less tedious. Their self-titled debut was released October 6, and the two hit the road on tour October 13.
Which brings us to (Le) Poisson Rouge. The show began with a raucous, hand-clapping number featuring just Ryan, Zach and their mystery ghost emcee on vocals. The rest of the band soon filtered on to the stage along with about 15 tweens from Philadelphia's St. Peter's Church choir, garbed in white hooded robes and ghoulish face paint, filling in for the L.A. Silverlake Conservatory Children's choir, who sang on DMB's debut. (And if Ryan weren't crushworthy enough already, I should add that he was great with the kids, frequently turning around to direct them and offer accolades.)
The 14-set song list ran the gamut from melancholy, contemplative ballads to pulsing up-tempo barn-burners. Ryan and Zach showed off their musical dexterity, trading off vocals and instruments, with Ryan doing the most running around the stage, trading drums for guitar, guitar for piano. His languid baritone reminded me a lot of Johnny Cash (or perhaps Joaquin Phoenix channeling Johnny in "Walk the Line"), but either way, Ryan's come a long way from his younger days wearing jumbo pants on "The Mickey Mouse Club."
The most noticeable snafu in the otherwise well-run show was an after-life bit in the middle of the set, which went a bit awry. As one of the ghost kids pretended to be "shot," a video montage of her after-life was projected on to a sheet, but the accompanying voice over never played. Ryan and Zach chimed in, doing their best to recite the prose from memory. The crowd seemed hardly to mind though, finding the whole slightly awkward exchange endearing. The show ended with the choir throwing Halloween candy into the crowd ... a fun idea until I was pelted rather forcefully in the forehead by a fun-size Heath bar.
The one takeaway I can share from last night's concert was that "Dead Man's Bones" is more than a concept album. Sure, every song revolves around ghosts or zombies, with themes of life and death at their core, but this isn't just some kooky Halloween album. Many of the numbers were peppy enough that I'd want to put them on an iPod running playlist, while the more mellow tunes will be good blue day fodder. I'm curious to see how far their dedication to this theme will go, as the two are reportedly working on a second album.
Were you at the Dead Man's Bones show last night in NYC? Or do you have tickets for an upcoming show? What did you think?