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Live Review: Spoon (Britt Pop)

Tense utensils: Spoon come in from the cold (photo: Twitter)

Spoon

O2 Forum, Kentish Town (30/06/17)

In naming Spoon the Perennial Four-Star Band, I am being in no way disparaging. Across a career that spans almost a quarter-decade, the ever-rotating team of Austin indie-rockers have steadily built themselves a reputation as the safest set of hands in modern guitar music. Every few years, Spoon will drop a record that may not blow (or change) minds, but will undoubtedly pop with terrifically tight songwriting, and sparkle with innovative studio wizardry. Within the standard parameters of guitar-keys-drums-bass, Britt Daniel and co. are able to run the gamut from skeletal riff-rock to pocket psychedelia, occasionally souping up the engine with funk, disco, and bluesy modifications, sounding fresh and coherent all the while. Not only is reliability among the band’s greatest assets, Spoon have also turned it into something positively sexy.

As you’d expect from such a CV, and with many years and miles on the road behind them, Spoon do not disappoint when it comes to live spectacle. The O2 Forum in Kentish Town may seem like a modest venue for such stalwarts, but in truth it’s the perfect home for a group whose music has always lingered on the periphery of the mainstream: always too sharp and self-aware to make a grab for sold-out success, but captivating enough to continue accumulating a devoted following as the albums pile up. As such, the majority of those in attendance seem to be disciples rather than casual fans here for a glimpse. In a setlist comprised entirely of bankable favourites, it’s interesting to chart those which receive the most audible adulation from the crowd. In this instance, it’s the crop of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga cuts towards the set’s close, as well as Kill the Moonlight‘s only look-in, the terse ‘Stay Don’t Go’.

Daniel himself is in magnificently fine voice from the first, his signature yowl rising to rebound from the rafters as ‘Do I Have to Talk You Into It’ and ‘I Ain’t the One’ reach their impassioned refrains. He’s a magnetic presence onstage; clad in a skinny-fit suit jacket, seemingly impervious to the room’s rising swelter, his gangly frame and angular features as engaging to follow as his voice is electrifying to hear. Daniel isn’t one for brazen showboating, but he retools the swagger of rock mythology with his deft range of tones; concealing heated passions behind an untouchable cool. At this stage too, his bandmates feel sturdier than ever as a unit. Fairly recent inductee Alex Fischel is now an integral contributor to the Spoon machine, and likewise Rob Pope and Jim Eno prove that it’s the group’s rhythm section as much as Daniel’s presence that keep the show oozing charm and dexterity.

With nine albums’ worth of material to cherry-pick from, every song launches like a firework, and aside from a rather baffling keyboard wig-out following the starry-eyed ‘Do You’, in which all members leave the stage save for Fischel, the set rattles along at a furiously brisk pace, songs snapping into position like Lego bricks the size of boulders. The transition from ‘The Underdog”s jaunty swing to the simmering urgency of ‘Rainy Taxi’, or the breakneck sprint through ‘Rent I Pay’, ‘Can I Sit Next to You’ and ‘Stay Don’t Go’ demonstrate a team of artists operating in near-telepathic synergy, and when they seriously nail a groove such as that of Hot Thoughts‘ title track, the experience is electrifying.

Although such a huge catalogue of work does mean that any set that Spoon curate will inevitably feel lacking in one or two diamonds, after decades in the game, these guys know how to work a room with supreme confidence. Readily surrender your ears, but be warned: they might just take your soul too.

Setlist

Do I Have to Talk You Into It // Inside Out // I Turn My Camera On // Rent I Pay // Can I Sit Next to You // Stay Don’t Go // Don’t You Evah // Do You // Via Kannela // I Ain’t the One // Anything You Want // My Mathematical Mind // Don’t Make Me a Target // The Underdog // Rainy Taxi // Black Like Me // I Summon You // Hot Thoughts // Got Nuffin

05/07/17