Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Spoon gig [30th April 2010 @ Billboard]

Indie band Spoon (who hail from Austin, Texas) are one of my favourite bands from the last decade. Despite getting into them quite late (when I bought their 5th album Gimme fiction in late 2005), I have since purchased most of their albums. It didn't take long for their unique breed of minimal piano-driven rock/pop to get under my skin. With a back catalogue of 7 albums and several EPS, they had a plethora of excellent material to populate a solid set list, and I eagerly awaited the gig.

Taking to the stage with very little fanfare, they opened with the slow burner Before destruction, the opening track from their latest album Transference. Their set covered a vast spectrum of their back catalogue, with bias towards their last album and its predecessor Ga ga ga ga ga (their commercial and arguably artistic peak).

Highlights throughout the set included a groovy rendition of Me and the bean (a cover of a song by Austin band The Sidehackers, included on their Girls can tell album), beautiful ballad I summon you and the Motown pastiche of You got yr. cherry bomb. The crowd seemed to respond best to the Ga ga ga ga ga material; a great cross-section of that album was included, from the anthemic Don't make me a target, atmospheric The ghost of you lingers and groovy numbers Rhthm & soul [sic] and The underdog.

There weren't too many surprises in the song line-up, but front-man Britt Daniel introduced one song as "a Wolf Parade song" before launching into an admirable cover of Modern world from their Apologies to Queen Mary album. Stay don't go (from Kill the moonlight) was also nice to hear, sans the beat-boxing which is integral to the rhythm of the studio version.

Unfortunately Britt Daniel appeared to have a few voice issues, apologising on several occasions and asking the audience if he sounded a bit hoarse. Many of the songs were punctuated with bursts of feedback during the peaks and fade-outs; initially I thought that these were accidents, but my gig mate Matt believed that maybe they were done on purpose to hide his limited vocal range. I certainly didn't think they added anything to the music, so hopefully he was just having an off-night. The sound quality wasn't great in general, but that's probably a criticism directed more at the venue (and possibly sound engineer) than the band.

No songs were played from A series of sneaks (Metal detektor and Metal school would have gone down particular well), and the selection from Girls can tell was also quite lean (the poppy Everything hits at once and down-tempo 1020 AM would have added a bit more variety to the set list). But the biggest disappointment of the night was not getting to hear The way we get by live; not only is it my favourite Spoon song, but it's one of my favourite songs of all time.

Britt Daniel's stage presence at times reminded me of the late Ian Curtis, front-man for the influential post-punk band Joy Division. I'm not sure if it was the almost-robotic way in which he carried himself, but it was especially apparent when he ended the gig after epic finale Written in reverse; he said goodbye to the audience and just dropped the microphone from the height at which he was holding it. It just seemed like something Ian Curtis would have done.

Overall it was a respectable gig, but one marred by technical issues and a (slightly) disappointing set list. Maybe I've just been spoilt by other excellent gigs from recent memory.

Bootleg media

Britt doing his best "Joe Strummer" impersonation.

Britt strumming away.

Performance of I summon you from their Gimme fiction album.


  1. Hey Jiggs, pencil here. I got their new one, quite like it, how does it stack up in their catalogue?

  2. @Pencil - I don't actually own their most recent album, but I have given it a few listens (to familiarise myself with it before the gig). So I can't comment too much on it as I haven't given it a chance to grow on me.

    I would recommend picking up "Ga ga ga ga ga", "Girls can tell" or "Kill the moonlight" next. All superb albums.

    Any other purchases lately?

  3. Yeah - quite like Phoenix's latest (too pop for you?!), also 2 door cinema club debut not bad if a little patchy. Do you know Belgian band DEus? Have a listen to the song Instant Street, it's a winner! And you?

  4. Is that the "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" album? That one has some good reviews but I haven't heard it yet. Haven't heard any of those other bands either.


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