If the March 30 show at the Abbey Pub is any indication, the Austin, Texas-based band Spoon likes to rock the shit out of the stage...for about an hour. Headlining a triple bill that included Brooklyn band Palomar and ex-Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann's new project Crooked Fingers, they played to a capacity crowd at the intimate venue.
Taking the stage after a feisty set by Palomar and a passionate, albeit slightly lengthy set by the Fingers, Spoon entered in typical dapper fashion. After opening with a hearty version of "All the Pretty Girls Go to the City," frontman and songwriter Britt Daniel proceeded to steal the show.
The charismatic lead singer was quickly forced to step directly into the spotlight as technical problems with the keyboard forced him to fill some dead air. He regaled the audience with stories of prior technical problems with keyboards at the Abbey Pub.
Daniel's charm never let up after that point. During "The Way We Get By," he showed off his penchant for James Brown-esque dance moves, which, along with his slightly raspy voice and impeccable fashion sense, gave him somewhat of a Mick Jagger-via-Stephen Malkmus swagger. He even introduced "The Way We Get By" by explaining that it was a "song about getting high in the back seats of cars...which we do."
However, for all his slacker charisma, it was Daniel's guitar that set him apart from the rest of the band. Tearing through numbers like "The Fitted Shirt," "Lines in the Suit," and show-closer "Jonathan Fisk," his guitar provided the intensity that generally defined the night.
Surprisingly, his guitar was put to the best use during "Paper Tiger," a studio track constructed mainly from keyboards, samples, and spare percussion. His eerie guitar interludes provided the perfect live backdrop for the song's intensely personal lyrics.
Although many of the songs bettered their studio versions, not everything was Frampton Comes Alive fodder. The most notable disappointment was actually the relatively boring (besides Daniel's showmanship) version of "The Way We Get By," a song tailor-made to be played in a crowded, smoky bar. An attempt to beef up the tricky "Small Stakes" by accentuating Jim Eno's drumming fell a bit short as well.
The only other drawback to an otherwise excellent show was its brevity. The band played only about half of Kill the Moonlight, the new, critically-acclaimed album that they were hawking, as well as a handful of tracks off of their previous two albums. Although this made for a decent mix of tracks that spanned their career, it only provided about an hour of entertainment. Even worse, however, was the omission of "Chicago At Night," an almost unpardonable sin.
Despite a few missteps, the show was an excellent example of an outstanding live band at its creative peak. Spoon definitely knows how to sex up your ears...at least for a little while.