Spoon’s upward trajectory has been pretty impressive to watch, with their course self-righted after the disastrous foray into the major label feeding frenzy that bit into and spit out A Series of Sneaks, via the mouth of Elektra. Of course, that’s old news, being released over a dozen years ago, and on the accumulated strengths of the last three records they have steadily marched into the rarefied strata of performing on Saturday Night Live and selling out large theaters – the night before saw them play a sold-out Radio City Music Hall! This is a band whose strengths lie in their tight songwriting styles and a keen eye for a strong lyrical turn of phrase, as well as leader Britt Daniel’s looks. The teen-aged girls to the left of me made no bones about their carnal desires regarding Britt, shouting out a request (or was that a threat?) that certainly wouldn’t get printed in any family papers. Likewise, the crowd seemed to have a good amount of women who might have been those girls’ mothers, hanging out in the back of room and dancing to the music. Spoon: a band that can bridge generations easily.
Spoon’s new record, Transference, has been out for a couple of months and has been their fastest selling record to date, hitting #4 on the Billboard charts upon the first week of its release. Unsurprisingly, the set didn’t shy away from the newer material (seven songs in total and half of the first ten songs), and the crowd up front was certainly familiar with it, one younger gentlemen behind me was particular enthused about singing the lyrics along with Britt. Although they didn’t play my favorite of the record (“The Mystery Zone”), the songs they did play displayed the sort of songcraft that Britt’s mapped out so well, with each band member bringing a distinct and separate component to the mix. “Nobody Gets Me But You” perhaps shows a glimpse into what Britt’s been listening to lately, a nod to the dry static beats of the late ’80s new wave vanguards such as Romeo Void or Gary Numan.
Personally, I could have done with a bit more of the early works, when they had more bite and a rockist approach, but tonight the only taste we got of that was “Metal School.” I don’t expect them to tread water and revisit past glories, but nothing at all was played from my favorite record, 2001′s Girls Can Tell. To be fair, “Me and the Bean” was on the encore set list, but due to the venue’s double duty as late night disco, the curfew came hard and fast at 10PM and Britt made note of this restriction and regretfully shut the show down a bit prematurely. Spoon’s songwriting talents are clearly top-notch, but while they are fine performers, they failed to light the fuse of the capacity crowd, which was more akin to watching a tennis match, with polite applause between points.
This was my third time seeing Deerhunter, and the first for me without a third guitar in the lineup. It didn’t matter, as they had as full a sound as ever, with even more of a late 80s post-punk drive than I’d previously noticed…seems like they’ve jettisoned some of the Cocteau Twins and Slowdive mannerisms for more of a Killing Joke or Public Image Limited approach, with bass player Josh Fauver in particular setting a hard-driving tone. The motorik rhythms of opener “Wash Off”coiled into an ultra-tight version of “Nothing Ever Happened” and they even debuted two as of yet unreleased songs in “Fountain Stairs” (with Josh singing) and “Revival” (not sure if this had guitarist Lockett Pundt singing on it or not, but he definitely sang one song). Towards the end, lead singer Bradford Cox was actively calling for someone named Rob (maybe Rob Pope of Spoon?), but as Rob never materialized, the contingency plan was to launch into “Operation,” an equally fuzzed out and hook-laden song as they’ve got. Deerhunter continue to grow as a band, and I’m looking forward to their next step. Glad that Bradford’s statement at ATP/NY last year about the band’s hiatus seems to be a short-lived one.
All photos by Tim Bugbee. For more of Tim’s work, check out www.tinnitus-photography.com
For a complete photo gallery of this show, click here!