Live: Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. (Featuring MNDR, Q-Tip, Spank Rock, And The Phantom Planet Guy) Invade Webster Hall
Better Than: Mark Ronson's new hairdo.
Mark Ronson & the Business Intl. played their second homecoming show last night at Webster Hall. The cast of characters for both Ronson's new album and last night's show includes vocalists Alex Greenwald (of Phantom Planet) and Rose Elinor Dougall (of the Pipettes), Amanda Warner (a/k/a MNDR), rappers Q-Tip and Pill, and the surprising, warmly welcomed return of MC Spank Rock. It's an even weirder mix than his first full-length attempt, but if the new one's title, Record Collection, says anything, it's that his mash-up-DJ know-how has continued to translate into a smooth pop sensibility. Basically, if you can do a little bit of everything, and as long as it sounds cool, why not try?
At the very least, they looked cool. Squared off with red tape, the stage glowed white, with keyboardists Dougall and MNDR on either end of the platform, Greenwald and a drum kit posted above them, and Ronson looming over the whole thing as some sort of glowing god. The entire gang sported uniforms -- the men in gray suits, the women in head-to-toe black. We fell in love with the ladies immediately. The wide-eyed and pouty Dougall started off stoically singing backup on "Lose It" but quickly lost her gloom, transforming into a dancing, sultry maniac by the time she took the lead on "Oh My God." MNDR, equally as crazed (we mean this in the most affectionate of ways), convulsed about on "Sparrow," her amazingly weird aesthetic reflected both in her vocals and body distortions. Naturally, she ended up precariously perched on Ronson's keyboard.
Did we mention the quiet return of Spank Rock? The coy prince of hipster rap ran through old favorites -- "Bump", "Race Riot" -- and was featured in half a dozen newer tracks. He played hype man throughout, chiming in on "Hey Boy" and an encore of "Bike Song," all the while sporting a huge, childish grin and encouraging the crowd to clap along. (It's the little things that do it for us.) Pill was less impressive. "Has anyone heard of Pill?" shouted an enthusiastic Ronson, in introduction. "Aw, at least pretend you have," he replied to the few who cheered, before launching into the new "Introducing the Business." We may have pretended a little harder if backup vocalist Greenwald didn't look so terribly bored with the whole thing. He did show some exertion though, crooning his most famous work, Phantom Planet's "California" (shout-out to The OC), and playing frontman for emo-pop love ballads "You Gave Me Nothing" and "Stop Me."
As we expected, the night's big contributor was surprise-guest Q-Tip: The rapper jumped on stage for "Bang Bang Bang" and the room erupted. The collaboration between him and MNDR is odd enough on its own, and live, it translates to something of a spectacle, MNDR writhing around and whipping her hair on one end of the stage, Q-Tip cooly rapping along and reaching out to fans on the other. But, let's not forget about the guy who has pulled this perfectly mashed-together project together. While Ronson did take on a 15-min DJ set -- scratching "Pon di Floor" into Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" into Pharoahe Monch's "Simon Sez" -- he willingly and gracefully played the role of onstage producer otherwise. While he did take turns pounding out a drum solo on "Circuit Breaker" or busting out an elaborate guitar solo for Coldplay's "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face," he's certainly not ego-tripping. Ronson clearly knows that he's only as important as the band that surrounds him.
Overheard: A man threatening to push another man over the balcony for stepping on his girlfriend's foot.
Critical Bias: I'm quite sure that Phantom Planet's "California" exists on an old iPod of mine.
Random Notebook Dump: Spotted in the crowd: An older black lady wearing a Teletubbies T-shirt.
Oh My God
The Night Last Night
--- DJ Set---
Introducing the Business
Bang Bang Bang
God Put A Smile
You Gave Me Nothing