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Twenty-four years in, the Austin minimalist indie rock group are still completely digging and committed to this thing they've created
SPOON at Massey Hall, Tuesday, July 25. Rating: NNNN
Spoon frontman Britt Daniel said in an interview earlier this year that once he realized there was a difference between being a rock star and being a musician, he chose being a musician.
That’s evidenced clearly throughout the Austin indie rock band’s 24-year career: the albums come first (they’ve now got nine of them, including Hot Thoughts, released in March), and each one is consistently high quality: focused and immaculate, inventively minimal, full of rhythmic and melodic hooks.
Which isn’t to say the four-piece (five, live) puts on a dud of a show. Raspy-voiced Daniel let his natural, rock star charisma shine through at Massey Hall on Tuesday night, often reaching his long frame – or sometimes his guitar – toward the rafters to punctuate a beat or give a note more emotional punch. He’s got presence and swagger, and can look cool simply standing still under a spotlight, fully committing to every note.
Spoon’s other founding member, Jim Eno, was just as satisfying to watch, plodding happily away behind a kit that had the image of Little Richard on its kick drum, while bassist Rob Pope, a member since 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and guitarist/keyboardists Alex Fischel and Gerardo Larios filled out the songs with low end, texture, tambourine and occasionally dramatic moves. (Fischel kicked his wheeled amp around the stage near the set’s end.)
The love felt mutual right from the start, when the band’s strangely dark stage prompted half the crowd to pull out their phones and point them in Spoon’s direction for the duration of opener Do I Have To Talk You Into It. “That was unbelievable,” Daniel said afterwards. “Thank you, guys.” (It’s still unclear whether the lack of lights was intentional – they were often jarringly bright and throbbing for the rest of the show.)
From there we got more songs from the new album, and a strong selection of oldies that included I Turn My Camera On from 2005’s Gimme Fiction, Everything Hits At Once and Anything You Want from 2001’s Girls Can Tell, and standout performances of Do You from 2014’s They Want My Soul and rivetingly bittersweet new song I Ain’t The One.
Sure, some favourites got left off the set list (they’ve got nine albums of material, remember), but things peaked with the one-two punch of Don’t Make Me A Target and the completely joyous The Underdog.
Twenty-four years in and Daniel and Eno are still digging this thing they’ve created. So was the sold-out crowd, whose standing ovation brought Daniel back for a solo performance of I Summon You, and the rest of the band for a tambourine-heavy, moody rendition of Pink Up, plus Rent I Pay and Got Nuffin.
“Beautiful night, beautiful venue,” said Daniel with a grin. “I feel like the Von Trapp family.”
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