Blusey indie rock act Spoon are the masters of minimalism. Their strong, simple sound contains guitar hooks you can’t get out of your head, and lead singer Britt Daniel’s sweet yet gravelly voice cuts right to the core.
Theirs is the type of pop-rock that could fill an empty room, or help you stay sane on a deserted island. You’d only need a candle, a stump and some Spoon to survive.
So when I arrived at The Orpheum on a sunny Sunday evening I was pretty darn stoked. I’ve seen them once before at the Commodore and they gave a flawless, emotionally-charged performance. Needless to say, I was READY for this!
But I cannot lie about what came first. Openers Micachu & the Shapes were painful; their frenetic, experimental sound didn’t match the venue. Perhaps it was because I had balcony seating and I wasn’t able to witness the band’s penchant for hammering away on hand-made instruments. Or perhaps it was because a large open space like The Orpheum with its gilded interior and fantastic acoustics only served to amplify their lack of talent — I don’t know.
In any case, Micachu & the Shapes’ jangly, ragged guitar and droaning, post-punk vocals made me feel hungover.
After this, ambient punk/alt rock act Deerhunter took the stage. I was pretty psyched for this as I’m a fan of lead singer Bradford Cox’s side project Atlas Sound. Deerhunter’s set was good, not great, but generally pleasant. The general pleasantries were aided by Cox’s dorky yet lovable stage manner (he is super tall and incredibly thin, and uses words like “sock hop” and “groovy”). Cox even flopped his lanky frame onto the floor the for the last number causing a jubilant dance party at the front of the stage. It was adorable!
As well, Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Rob Pope and Eric Harvey all pitched in intermittently throughout the set, which was pretty rad.
And then, it was time for Spoon.
The stage was decorated simply, with just a few strands of Christmas lights, some floor-mounted lightboxes and a single spotlight to highlight the band’s pared-down approach to rock and roll.
Lead vocalist Britt Daniel started the set with a bare-bones rendition of “Before Destruction” that gave me chills. His voice is so raspy and masculine it makes me want children. And right as the last notes faded like smoke, the band revved up to a bluesy rendition of “Nobody Gets Me But You.”
Some additional highlights were a totally transcendental performance of the “Ghost of You Lingers” that was so powerful it had me reviewing images from the last ten years of my life. All my failures and accomplishments flew by in rapid succession to the stark, repetitive notes of Eric Harvey’s controlled keyboarding.
Then it got fun. Popping out hits like “Cherry Bomb,” “Rhythm and Soul,” “Don’t Make Me a Target,” and “The Underdog,” Spoon had everyone in the joint bobbing heads, tapping toes and showing teeth. God, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a great album. (Try saying that three times fast!)
Luckily their massive catalogue is so solid that the band doesn’t have to coast on just one album. With tracks hearkening all the way back to 2002′s Kill the Moonlight, and an encore boasting two of my favourite Spoon tracks of all time — “I Turn My Camera On” and “Don’t You Evah” — it was impossible not to cheer my heart out for them when they exited the stage for good.
If I were to make one complaint, nay, two: there were a few instances where the guitar was turned up too loud drowning out Daniel’s vocals. Also, their rendition of “Anything You Want” didn’t contain any keyboard action. They did the riff with guitars, and it didn’t sound nearly as good as it could have.
But all in all, their entire performance was given with such controlled precision that I can honestly say Spoon is one of the most professional, and accessible, acts in rock and roll.
Now you must watch a live bootleg of “The Way We Get By” recorded live from the very same night. Enjoy!
All photos by me.