Posted by: Jeff | March 24, 2010

Live Review: Spoon

Photo Credit: Kyle Gustafson For The Washington Post

Audio at bottom.

Spoon have been around the block a time or two, releasing seven full albums as well as doing the bulk of the work on the soundtrack to Stranger Than Fiction in 2006.  So the Austin, TX band has no shortage of material – in fact, despite a set on Tuesday that spanned some 23 songs, it’s tough not to look back on the setlist and bemoan a few favorites they had to skip.  For an average band, this would be quite a problem.

But Spoon is no average band – in fact, they’re at the top of the upper echelon.

Britt Daniels and company have released at least two albums that come close to defining perfection.  It’s extraordinarily rare to hear a Spoon track that isn’t immediately enjoyable.  This is a rock band with a true gift for pop, a deadly combination capable of winning over fans of alternative and top 40 alike.

Such was the anticipation for Tuesday night’s show at the 930 Club, the second sold out DC show in as many nights.  DCist’s review of the first night hit just before I left for the U St. area, and promised a night possibly “the best touring band in America right now.”  High praise.  I was excited.

We arrived at the Club at 9, about halfway through an opening set by Deerhunter.  I have to admit that I was only vaguely familiar with Deerhunter’s music, though have followed frontman Bradford Cox’s side projects as Atlas Sound and ‘The Kids” from Karen O & The Kids (of Where The Wild Things Are fame).  Deerhunter were good, inflecting the wash of My Bloody Valentine-esque walls of sound with a lo-fi indie vibe.  Probably a band worth further investigation.

After a brief wait, Spoon took the stage and launched straight into a torrid set that ripped through their catalogue, drawing on material both new and old (including at least one track from 1998’s Series of Sneaks) to keep fans on their toes.  Spoon’s success and popularity tends to grow with each subsequent release, but it was clear from the audience reaction that people stop and listen to the back catalogue upon discovery.  Personally, I know that my discovery of Spoon after 2005’s Gimme Fiction resulted in my immediate purchase of 2002’s Kill the Moonlight, an album that has since become one of my all-time favorites.

Spoon tracks are generally on the short end, though performed live the intricate variation and detailed layering of sound become increasingly clear.  Though short, these songs cover a lot of ground.  Take concert highlight “Don’t Make Me A Target”, a track that starts off with a slow descending guitar pattern before segueing into a robust piano-driven chorus.  Before long, the track literally erupts into a frenzy, which last night created one of the most raucous moments of the show.

This variation in style and volume creates an immensely enjoyable listening experience, and by the end of the show the entire Club was rocking along with the band.

Britt Daniels is a wonderful vocalist.  He doesn’t have pitch-perfect tone, and he doesn’t have all that much range either.  In fact, he’s not that great of a singer.  But when he takes the microphone, it’s clear that he feels the song, and his changing vocal inflections and gravelly exaltations oozed rawness, reminding the audience that though the band is in complete control of intricate instrumentation, these are humans and not recordings.

Once again the sound at 930 was impeccable, and it was a perfect showcase for a band like Spoon.  Every note of bass, clang of the high-hat – from either of the two drummers – and stuttering piano jab were audible and clear.  This was perhaps never clearer than during The Ghost of You Lingers, a lonely stuttering piano riff on record transformed into a cavernous depth of percussive bombast and atmosphere live.  It was easy to get lost in the music, and even after two encores the audience wanted more.  That, I think, is the mark of a truly good show.

Highlights of the evening:  Don’t Make Me A Target, Got Nuffin, Written in Reverse, The Ghost of You Lingers, Small Stakes (end of 2nd encore)

You can hear Spoon’s March 17th concert in Austin, TX in full via NPR here.

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Responses

  1. Spoon is good…..on your IPod……but in concert they are a bit boring, a bit depressing, and with a lack of stage presence they almost seem to be a bit lazy. I love their music and always hoped they would be a great show but after seeing them live I have to say they rate in the bottom 5 live groups I’ve seen (at least 150). There are times during their live set where they almost have “it” but then the moment crescendos downward rapidly. It’s like they begin to rise to a peak but never get there and just give up and the song ends, there’s no plateau even, just a steady progression upward where the crowd gets excited then it just fades. This leads to disappointment, confusion, and a yearning for attainment. But hey, maybe that’s the point, maybe that’s ultimately what the music is about, but I never thought that listening to their albums. But live……they’ll never surpass that the 3,000 and under venues…they are more of an intimate crowd pleasing, hold hands and sway, and occasionally bop your head type band. Great for chilling but not for partying.

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