What kind of band are Spoon? Describing them as a rock band just doesn’t cut it. The label is too simplistic. Calling them an indie band also undermines the complexity of their material. Art rock makes them sound inaccessible. They’re not. Yet, without really residing in any specific musical enclave that would help define them to the uninitiated, this Austin-based outfit have been imaginatively plowing their own furrow, amassing a wealth of incredibly creative material along the way that is always so distinctly Spoonish and always so damn addictive for twenty five years now.
The band descend upon Manchester this evening on the back of huge, critical support for their latest record Hot Thoughts and this release has clearly brought new fans into the Spoon family because Gorilla is heaving. Long-time fan and comedian Adam Buxton opens in the support slot and it is a novel way to start the evening. A bit of quality stand-up before the main event, including a hilarious dubbing of The Beach Boys performing Barbara Ann ensures we’re all in fine fettle as we await the arrival of the band, but when the lights dim the atmosphere shifts to something darker and the sense of anticipation is palpable as Alex Fischel summons up an immense, pullulating fanfare on the keyboard which metamorphoses into Do I Have to Talk You Into it which signals the arrival of the rest of the band.
Inside Out quickly follows and the synth-heavy groove of the track swirls intoxicatingly, mesmerizing and hypnotic throughout. Drummer Jim Eno recently remarked to AMBY that this song in particular, from the 2014 album They Want My Soul, marks the moment the approach to Hot Thoughts began to emerge. “We really loved that song as far as sonics and direction and feel go, so if you look at a jumping off point for Hot Thoughts it sort of feels like it’s based around what we were feeling with Inside Out and Hot Thoughts is continuing that idea”. This suggestion manifests itself in Pink Up which is an atmospheric dreamscape of a song, full of subtle percussion and keys that compliment Britt’s enigmatic vocals. The twitchy Can I Sit Next to You expunges the mysterious calm of the previous song before we travel back to 2002’s spiky Stay Don’t Go.
Looking like a young, wiry Gary Busey circa The Big Wednesday, Britt Daniel is full of dangerous, lurching energy and Don’t Make Me a Target benefits from his spontaneity but WhisperI’lllistentohearit demonstrates the force of the whole band to its fullest. The subtle introduction develops menacingly until Rob Pope’s throbbing bass lines thrillingly cascade amongst us and Alex Fishel’s synths increase in intensity and volume before he grabs his Fender Jaguar, fiercely stabbing out the jagged edges of the searing solo which signify the peak of the song before Daniel brings it back under control with menacing cool. The track is an awesome, spectacular and completely absorbing masterpiece but this darker tone is quickly tempered by the catchy, chorus-driven brilliance of Do You and therein lies the majesty of this band from Austin, who demonstrate a nimble ability to turn on a stylistic dime.
Up to this point, the crowd have been reverential without losing their cool, but the encore appears to bring out a bit of the animal in all of us. Hot Thoughts gouges angular grooves amongst the swaying crowd before Got Nuffin’s serrated riffs brutally excoriate the first few rows of ecstatic fans, much to their complete and utter delight. The evening eventually comes to an end with Rent I Pay and many probably leave lamenting the lack of other fan-favourites, but with a band that have been this consistent for a quarter of a century, it’s impossible to depart feeling disappointed because Spoon have just served up an immense banquet of brilliance this evening!
For our interview with Spoon, click here.
Review by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto