Photos By Ryan Kelly, Review By Jeb Gavin
Lowering one’s expectations can be a sign of giving up, but having no expectations at all? That’s a blank canvas- anything is possible. So it was with Spoon’s performance at the Lincoln Theatre on a rainy Tuesday night: attend without expectations, leave blown away.
Perhaps saying no expectations is overstating things. I am familiar with the band. I like Spoon, in so much as I’ve never actively avoided their music. Not precisely a ringing endorsement I suppose, but I’d always seen them on a spectrum of dad rock. Never as weird as the Flaming Lips, slightly more serious than Wilco but nowhere near as glum as The National. If you’re at all familiar with me or my writing you know I concoct idiotic theories like these all the time, only to prove myself very, very wrong upon closer inspection.
Tuesday night they were ebullient, just so happy to be playing live in front of people. The whole band dressed in white, surrounded by and arc of blank flats onto which their silhouettes were projected, often shifting to the rhythm of whichever song they were playing. Large, colored spots would occasionally turn the set blue or red or turquoise, but lit from below so you could see these beams cutting through the air as though the music itself was atmosphere. High above the stage was a mirrored hexagonal pyramid, hanging like a muted, disco plumb bob (though when seen without the spots focused upon it, it looked instead like the tip of a great sword of Damocles hanging over Britt Daniel’s head. Make of the image what you will.) It looked like the reception for a wedding between a minimalist and an abstract expressionist.
Come to think of it, minimalism (in art, not music) and abstract expressionism combined is likely the best way to describe a live Spoon show. The music is in a sense a reaction to all the rock and roll that came before it while at the same time borrowing and deconstructing elements from it. Their opener “Knock Knock Knock” expands, the sparse strumming becomes more lush, taking on a sort of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers quality to it. The angular riffs of “Rent I Pay” borrow heavily from early Velvet Underground, especially when the piano parts take on a bit of barrel-house boogie-woogie. Elements of Cheap Trick, the Beatles, the Animals, the Beach Boys, even a tinge of Herb Alpert all carefully curated and arranged in place. Every song they played felt like someone had carefully combed through rock music as a whole, prizing apart elements to recombine at a later date, in new and fascinating ways. Not that this is anything new, but to hear it so clearly and reverently and without a sense of plagiarism is brilliant.
Perhaps my one criticism on the night is the show was so good. Good to the point where I have been up all night since the show listening to every Spoon album I can find and feeling disappointed. Earlier this summer I saw Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails on a double bill, and while both put on amazing shows, the music is just as good on the record. With Spoon, their otherwise excellent music is transformed live into something fascinating and vibrant and now I’m left wanting to see them again. The art is in seeing it live, no matter how good the image is recorded otherwise.