What a difference a human makes.
When Duane Eddy edged onto the Palace stage Tuesday to join the Art of Noise on their hit remake of his 1961 smash "Peter Gunn," he didn't just add a missing sonic element with his famous twangy guitar. He filled a void in terms of presence and substance--and Eddy isn't exactly Mr. Charisma, which tells you something about the personality level of the English band.
Not that the Art of Noise--the out-front duo of keyboardist Anne Dudley and synthesizer man Jonathan Jeczalik, backed by drummer, percussionist, bassist and three women singers--didn't try. But Dudley and Jeczalik's attempts to humanize their essentially mechanical music with casual banter and a humorous approach seemed like a misguided, defensive denial of their nature.
They might be better off stylizing and playing up the computer-generated aspects of their electro-rock, a la the mannequin men of Kraftwerk--the German band that paved the way for the success of the Art of Noise's high-tech dance music.
None of that would have mattered if Tuesday's show had moved along at the clip it established, too late, with the neck-snapping "Beatbox." But the group seemed intent on proving that it's just a regular band that can play jazz and ballads too. The result was an excess of arid, slow stretches. It didn't change the pace, it killed it.
Eddy's resuscitation job at the end of the show was a real kick. That archetypal "Peter Gunn" riff only has a few notes, but what notes! It sounded as if he was reaching up and plucking a power line.
The Art of Noise (without the originally scheduled band Blue in Heaven in the opening slot) is due at the Pacific Amphitheatre tonight and at the Los Angeles Beach Scene Festival in San Pedro on Saturday. Don't lose Duane's number, guys, and be careful not to get sand in the synth.