Spoon is an efficient indie-rock machine when they play live, much tighter than one might expect given their shambling warts-and-all recording approach. They proved that with a stellar, snow-delayed set Wednesday at In The Venue.
As this point in the quartet's career, Spoon doesn't have a lot of surprises up its sleeve. Singer/guitarist Britt Daniel and Co. have a winning system and they're sticking to it; namely, use the recording studio to toy with things like lo-fi noise workouts or dub experiments. Then, when it's time to hit the stage, deliver a catalog-spanning 20-plus tunes that adhere largely to their recorded versions.
I'm not complaining. Spoon is one of too few acts using relatively traditional instrumentation—guitars, bass, drums and piano, for the most part—to deliver rock music with genuine grooves, no sampling or synthesizers necessary. And Daniel's smokey yelp is a fine instrument itself, able to shift from a soaring falsetto to a deeper, attitude-soaked sneer in an instant.
Wednesday's show naturally delved deep into Spoon's latest album, Transference, the 11-song set that debuted in the top 5 of the Billboard album-sales chart when it arrived in January. Given that Transference is not exactly a massive leap away from Spoon's comfort zone, the songs easily slid into a set dotted with old favorites reaching back a decade or so.
Among the best of the new tunes Wednesday? "The Mystery Zone," with its bubbling bassline and echo-y guitar licks, proved irresistible thanks to the harmony vocals, despite Daniel declaring at its outset, "Oh, we haven't played this one in a while."
"Written in Reverse" required a re-start when Daniel's guitar cut out ("Can we do it from the first chorus, please?" Daniel asked, before hearing the crowd voice its disapproval. "You guys want to hear it from the top?"). Even with the technical glitch, the song was one of the show's best, an ideal showcase for Daniel's falsetto. "Nobody Gets Me But You" and "Who Makes Your Money" (which featured a guest spot by Bradford Cox from show-opener Deerhunter) both worked well.
As a fan who first jumped on board the Spoon bandwagon with the Kill The Moonlight album, I was psyched to hear the jaunty almost-hit "The Way We Get By" early in the set, and "Small Stakes" and "Someone Something" toward show's end.
In between came a slew of familiar favorites, from the sexy throb of "Don't You Evah" to the relatively sparse "Don't Make Me a Target" and acoustic-driven "Black Like Me" from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, to retro-funk of "I Turn My Camera On," straightforward rock of "I Summon You" and the encore take on the sprawling "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" from Gimme Fiction.
Damn fine stuff, especially considered the band had to navigate some treacherous roads to get to Salt Lake City from Denver in time for the show ("Today I learned the meaning of 'The pass is closed,'" Daniel said mid-show).
I didn't make it in time to catch much of Deerhunter. I'd love to hear what y'all thought of them and the other opening act, Micachu & The Shapes. Please leave a comment if you caught them and let us know how they were.