Gnarls Barkley plays MySpace secret show

Battles, Janelle Monae also on bill for 150th edition

Gnarls Barkley, Battles and newcomer Janelle Monae hit New York's Fillmore at Irving Plaza on Sunday night for MySpace's 150th "Secret Show." Admission was free on a first-come, first-served basis for MySpace users who've signed up as a "friend" of the Secret Show profile.

Despite the 90-degree heat outside, Gnarls Barkley vocalist Cee-Lo took the stage in a tuxedo shirt and tie as he belted out tracks like "Run" and a cover of the Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone."

But before long he had stripped down to a wife-beater undershirt and took a seat to sing several songs for the remainder of the set, which also featured the group's breakthrough hit "Crazy," "Smiley Faces," "Who's Gonna Save My Soul Now" and "Whatever."

Working with labels and artists, MySpace Music launched the Secret Shows franchise in January 2006 and has since hosted such acts as Rilo Kiley, Moby, Maroon5, the Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tenacious D, Lily Allen, Ice Cube, James Blunt and Neil Diamond in cities around the world.

The concept is the brainchild of MySpace Music editor Isac Walter, who wanted to attract fans to a MySpace profile where they could find out about promotional shows, with an urgent call to action.

"We have such a large social network we can pull from that we literally can go into any city and announce a show 48 hours in advance and fill an entire venue," Walter said.

The shows are not typically webcast on MySpace because of technological challenges. "If (the technology) does become available so that we can just set up a box and webcast the show for everybody to watch, I think it's pretty likely that we will, and I don't think the technology is too far off," Walter said. "But in the meantime, we're just focusing on the actual event itself to give the kids something to get excited about and remember MySpace."

The program has also developed cachet with fans. "This is more of a curated series of concerts. It holds a certain respect for the act that is playing," Walter said. "If we do a show with Ice Cube or Gnarls Barkley and we do a show with a band you may not have heard of, like Kasabian, for instance, you're more likely to want to go to this concert because you understand the bar for this series is pretty high."

Jonathan Cohen reported from New York; Ray Waddell reported from Nashville.
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