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Review: Belle Brigade @ Mercury Lounge, 7.12.11

The Belle Brigade -- siblings Barbara and Ethan

The Belle Brigade -- siblings Barbara and Ethan Gruska -- released their eponymous debut album in 2011. Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Records

The Belle Brigade's eponymous debut album is sweet, but it doesn't come close to the full-on assault of adorable that is The Gruska siblings' live show.

Barbara and Ethan Gruska share more than the keen sense of harmony they show off throughout their debut. They also share a quick, goofy sense of humor, an endearing stage presence and an unassuming sense of style. (Yes, Ethan was rocking a fannypack onstage.)

When Ethan declared, “This is the best show we've ever had,” you had to believe him, especially after Barbara backed him up.

The total Belle Brigade package makes them seem more like a family-friendly Fleetwood Mac than the neo-Simon-and-Garfunkel acoustic pop of the album. Their backing band even brings an undertow of funk, especially on the rollicking “Lucky Guy” and “Where Not to Look for Freedom.” (Openers Nightmare & The Cat showed off some sweet brotherly harmonies as well, from Django and Sam Stewart, sons of Eurythmic Dave Stewart. However, Django was even more effective when he let his inner Jagger out in the standout “Sarah Beth,” from the band's eponymous debut EP released yesterday.)

The high point of Belle Brigade's 50-minute set, though, is – and likely will be for quite some time – “Losers,” a stunning anthem against competition. It's an ironic success, considering how it will likely end up on a lot of “best of the year” lists. But it should also set up The Gruskas as one of the year's breakthrough artists and possible Grammy darlings come next year.

SETLIST: Lucky Guy / Belt of Orion / Sweet Louise / Shirt / Where Not to Look for Freedom / My Goodness / Rusted Wheel / Losers

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