Mono-tonous Night Out With Mono

Headliners play their hit song twice, proving they may be better suited toa 15-minute time slot.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mono's stage presence aside, Danette Rodham

came

specifically to hear their hit single

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Mono/Life_In_Mono.ram">"Life In

Mono." (RealAudio excerpt)

She got it.

And then -- whether she wanted it or not -- she got it again.

"I'm really psyched to hear that song," gushed the 32-year-old San

Francisco resident prior to the band's performance at Bimbo's 365 Club,

during which the band chose to offer two identical versions of the song. "I

haven't heard anything else by them."

After that performance, it's not likely she'll ever want to again.

Rodham was one of about 800 people who packed Mono's sold-out show

Friday

night at Bimbo's 365 Club, buzzing in anticipation of hearing their one hit

and whatever other gems the band had to throw the crowd's way. Little did

they know that they'd be hearing "Life In Mono" and a more obscure number

not once, but twice before it was over.

Call it the plight of a band touring with only one album (Formica

Blues) and one hit to support, or the capstone of a show conducted by

an obviously novice act. Whatever you call it, this show demonstrated that

bands such as Mono, which flash upon the scene with a catchy song hinting

at sublime brilliance, are better suited to tour in package deals with

other similarly experienced acts than in solo headlining slots.

All the makings of a big night out were set at the retro-swank club.

Members of San Francisco's current musical darlings The Kinetics mingled

among the urban-hipster crowd, all liberally enjoying cocktails and

seemingly happy to be a part of what promised to be one of the year's most

intriguing Bay Area performances. After a tepid set by opening act the

Devlins, all bodies slowly began filtering into the velvet-tinged main room.

Scattered on the stage were a couple of half-sized Gothic columns and two

video

screens, cocked askew and displaying tie-dye watery images. The five

members of Mono made their entrance to the accompaniment of some older

swing jazz. Befitting a crowd gathered to hear mellow, trip-hop styled

sounds, the applause that greeted the band was restrained.

In what may have been their most professional decision that night, Mono,

led by chanteuse Siobhan De Mare, seemed respectful of that restraint and

slid into the first song of the evening. Considering all the talk about the

band's explosive sound, they played relatively softly, and the members of

the crowd nodded their heads en masse to the lulling beats.

Still, all seemed to be going well enough during the first number.

The first sign of trouble emerged as the last notes from the keyboard

drifted off. "All right!! Are you all ready to party?" De Mare screamed in

her piercing Cockney accent, which did nothing but shatter the moment.

Having just been rudely awoken from its musical lullaby and unsure how else

to respond, the crowd faintly answered in the affirmative.

"OK!" she continued, "We're Mono!! Let's live the high life!!" It sounded

scripted and left the crowd feeling cheated.

Hipsters looked at each other with mock embarrassment for the singer, who

from that point on couldn't regain her composure long enough to convince

the crowd that she was in control. In song after similar song, De Mare

offered arena-rock gestures and, when not singing, arena-rock attempts to

rally the crowd.

It quickly became clear that this band is little more than a Portishead

clone. But whereas Portishead succeed in bringing lavish sonic textures,

Mono arrive only with arena ambitions.

About a third of the way into the 45-minute set, the band bestowed its hit,

"Life In Mono," on the crowd, which responded with loud approval, though

still less than rousing.

For the rest of the show, the group succeeded in bringing new meaning to

the term "album filler," clogging up the massive holes in its performance

with a weak musical glue that could not hold together the stage, let alone

the crowd. Among the tunes were "The Outsider," "Blind Man" and "Playboys."

Showing their disapproval, a trickle of people began heading for the exits

after "Life In Mono" finished. Those who chose to stick around were treated

to another go-round of the song as the first encore.

"You really like us!!" De Mare howled in one of the evening's most ironic

moments.

As the remainder of the crowd left the club later that night, the

once-beaming faces were now furtive, with more than one person asking

half-jokingly if refunds were available.