Monday, June 6th, 2005
I Summon You
My favourite part of Spoon’s new Gimme Fiction is in the outro of “Sister Jack”. In what has been a pretty straight 4/4 stomping rocker, they suddenly add an extra beat in the descending riff – the first time I heard it, I did a double take because I thought my CD was skipping or something. No, it was just one of the brilliant little touches that Spoon throws into their song arrangements that make their records such a joy. I’ve only experienced their live show once before, way back in September of 2002, and to be honest, I don’t remember much. Just that from my vantage point in the Horseshoe, I couldn’t see anyone in the band except Britt Daniel – for he is so very tall and his bandmates are so very not. It’s kinda funny to see. But yeah, back then I was still very new to Spoon so last night’s sold-out show at the Opera House was the first time I’d seen them as a fan and with a full knowledge of their catalog.
Opening things up was The Clientele, from London, England. They had been recommended to me in the past as the sort of thing I might like, yet none of the handful of tracks I sampled ever seemed to make any sort of impression. Still, I was willing to give them a shot to impress in a live setting. Being right up front, however, I was actually located behind the PA stacks and given that they are quite a quiet band and Alasdair MacLean’s Vox AC30 was pointed directly at me, I didn’t really hear much of anything but guitar. It was pretty guitar, sure – MacLean has an interesting spidery sort of fingerpicking style that I rather liked – but over the course of the set it was all very same-y. This certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that he left his tremolo pedal on for the duration, making it seem like they played one song for 40 minutes (or 10 four-minute songs that all sounded the same, I couldn’t tell). So yeah, a bit of a pity, that. And it wasn’t just where I was – reports from the balcony were that it all sounded the same up there as well. I won’t discount checking out one of their albums in the future, but they didn’t make a sale last night.
Curious thing about the headliners – for the first half of Spoon’s set, they were good but seemed to be holding something back. They were like a prizefighter circling the ring, sizing up the opposition but not thowing a punch. They obviously had the potential to do some serious rock’n’roll damage, like a coiled-up spring waiting to go off, but either by design or not, it apparently wasn’t go time. Then at exactly the halfway point of the set, they let loose a feedback-drenched “Paper Tiger” followed by a revved up “Small Stakes” and then it was on. From then on, they were tight, sinewy and grooving with just enough of a ragged edge to keep it dangerous – sometimes I forget just how unique Spoon’s sound is. There was no real knockout moment where they reached transcendence, but they came close with the extended jam-out on set closer “My Mathematical Mind”. While they may not have left the audience out cold on the mat, but they landed enough blows to get the decision. And in case you couldn’t tell, I know shit about boxing. But I’m sticking with the analogy anyway.
For my money, Spoon will always be a superb studio band first and foremost, but they’re no slouches onstage, either. I wonder how much of a difference it would make if the rest of the band were able to offer up some more stage presence rather than leaving it all to Britt Daniel and his dancing feet. Obviously he’s the focal point (did I mention how tall he is?) but that’s not to say he couldn’t use some support every now and again. But these are minor points – after almost two years away wherein they’ve dropped the “next” from their “next big thing” status, it was good to have them back in Toronto with a fine show. Photos tomorrow, I am ninety kinds of tired as is – staying up to play photomat was simply not on. But I was right up front so I got some decent shots of one sweaty Britt Daniel. Whoo! Update: Photos up!
np – Catherine Wheel / Ferment