Like a well-worn baseball glove, Spoon just keeps getting better as the years pile on. Hard to believe that their first record came out nearly 30 years ago as Britt Daniel still looks like he’s in his late 30s. The band soldiered on after a brief dalliance/flameout with a major label (how Elektra couldn’t figure out how to market the brilliant A Series Of Sneaks is beyond me, but major labels have a track record of being completely flummoxed by outstanding records).
Daniel and other original member/drummer/producer Jim Eno took the stage along with the rest of the band which featured two new faces (Ben Trokan on bass; Gerardo Larios on guitar and keys) since their last visit to town. It was the fifth member of Spoon though that in my opinion really helped rejuvenate the band. Alex Fischel plays guitar and keyboards and shambles around stage like a hepped-up Zach Galifianakis and since joining the band in 2013 has become Britt’s foil in the much same manner as the Warren Ellis/Nick Cave relationship.
Coming off the relatively lackluster Transference record, the band went into a bit of a hiatus as Daniel formed Divine Fits and first paired with Fischel. Alex helped jumpstart Daniel’s songwriting and arrangements and the latter-day Spoon is having another moment. Newest record Lucifer On The Sofa is a strong record and tonight the band would be starting the American tour in support of it.
You have to have confidence to lead your record off with a cover, and that’s how the band started, playing Smog’s “Held.” The sharp riffs were honed to a finer edge in Spoon’s rendition and I hate to admit this but though I’ve listened to the song a bunch of times before last night, it wasn’t until I picked out some of the lyrics that I realized it was a Callahan and not Daniel composition. (I wonder if there wasn’t some subtle Knock Knock and “Knock Knock Knock” connection that drew initial interest in covering this song.
One could make a decent argument that “Wild” is their answer to “Sympathy For The Devil,” but “The Hardest Cut” is a prototypically great Spoon song, all the bits are there; the chugging rhythm, the killer chorus, the interplay of the guitars. Steely, stripped down songs like “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” and “I Turn My Camera On” put focus squarely on not only how good a songwriter Daniel is but how all the parts come together in just the right way. Fischer and Larios in particular really bring out these elements in songs they had no part in creating.
The encores had a bit of a surprise; John Lennon’s “Isolation” has been a routine entry in their recent shows and it’s a great version but it was their nod to Boston and “She Cracked” from Modern Lovers that really hit the mark. A run through of The Cramps’ “TV Set” was another surprise, and they tucked in an original that really demonstrates Eno’s talent. “The Way We Get By” is a sparse song, with Daniel’s dry vocals augmented by piano, a minimal bass line and tambourine. Eno adds some drum but it’s not until the cymbal crash that he brings the kit into play and it’s just a glorious moment. The band shows no shortage of future greatness like this.
Margaret Glaspy and her band started the show and to be honest I haven’t seen a band flash so many smiles through their set like that in a long time. Her rhythm section played a bouncy set of energetic, heartfelt rock songs and she told the crowd a bit about her experiences in Boston, about going to Berklee and working at the Trident book store. Overall, a fun opening set.