April 5, 2010
After taking an extended break from concerts, I now have a full calendar lined up for the next couple months kicking off with the always incredible Spoon, who played Aragon Ballroom last Thursday night with backing from Deerhunter and Micachu & the Shapes (who I unfortunately didn’t make it in time to see). Although this was my third time seeing Spoon, both others were festival shows and I’ve been looking forward to seeing them play a full set. The band generously played 24 songs over the hour and 45 minute set, mixing new songs with plenty of old favorites. Although the expansive ballroom certainly wasn’t the ideal place to see Spoon play (that would likely be Schubas or The Metro), the band was still able to triumph over the sound issues and put on a fantastic show.
The last time I saw Deerhunter was their ’07 Pitchfork Festival set soon after their debut album Cryptograms was released. I wasn’t too impressed with their primarly ambient noise-driven music at the time, but as the band has since adopted a melodic, structured sound I’ve grown to appreciate them more and more. During their set, I was struck with their musicmanship. Bradford Cox is a hell of a guitar player, and the band’s sprawling, punchy psych-punk gives him many opportunities to show off his advanced jamming skills (especially on “Nothing Ever Happens”). The band still have a good amount of droning, reverb guitar but they incorporate enough quick tempo changes and odes to pop to keep it interesting.
Britt Daniel took the Christmas-light adorned stage solo, opening the set with two acoustic performances, “Me and the Bean” and “The Mystery Zone”, both of which greatly benefited from being heard in their raw, stripped-down forms. The rest of the band band joined him for charged performances of “Written in Reverse” and “Got Nuffin'”, two of the fiercest rockers from the band’s newest album. While Transference has been viewed as a more difficult, complex album from Spoon, the songs packed a huge punch, especially “Written in Reverse” which is an absolute beast in a live setting.
The band continued with an exceptional one-two punch of “My Mathematical Mind” and “Don’t Make Me A Target”, both featuring extended Britt Daniels guitar freakouts. From there, Spoon played a brilliant mixture of crowd-pleasers (“The Underdog”, “I Summon You”), older favorites (“Everything Hits At Once”, “Jonathon Fisk”) and newly minted classics (“You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”, “Dont Ya Evah”). They definitely lived up to their reputation for being a tight live band, both in their briskly-paced set and in the precision and dexterity of their performances.
While the focus of the show never leaves Britt Daniel, who is an outstanding, intensely confident front man, the rest of the band must be praised for their solid contributions to the band’s sound. Eric Harvey’s rhythmic, melodious keys have always been essential to their recorded outpout, and live even more-so, while Rob Pope’s persistent bass and Jim Eno’s rigorous drumming lay a firm groundwork for Britt to unleash his vehement guitar outbursts. The band’s spastic intensity was seen most clearly in “Small Stakes” which has long been a favorite of mine, and was one of the tracks I hoped to see live the most. As soon as those glitchy keyboards started, I was ecstatic.
One of most interesting song choices came midway through the set when they played a cover of Wolf Parade’s “Modern World” which made for a pretty cool moment. The end of the first set saw them bust out the super infectious sing-a-longs as “I Summon You”, “Cherry Bomb”, and “The Underdog” all showcased just why the band has gone from relative obscurity to being one of the most prominent “it” band of the last few years. After a lovely reading of “Black Like Me”, the band took a short break before returning for a magnificent five-song encore which included the head-bobbing “I Turn My Camera On” and perhaps the catchiest song on the new album, “Trouble Comes Running”. After playing their breakthrough hit “The Way We Get By”, the band spontaneously burst into a thrilling version of “Johnathon Fisk”, complete with Britt jumping up to the very edge of the stage as he played the sharp, propulsive guitar riff. The performance was absolutely electrifying and put a perfect cap on the night.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this show, I have to mention that it wasn’t without it’s problems. Due to the size and unforgiving acoustics of the room (I’ve heard Aragon described as playing in a gymnasium) the band was plauged with sound issues. From my perspective, directly in front of the stage, any flaws in the sound were barely noticeable, but I heard from fellow concertgoers the sound became distorted and muddled the further back you were in the room. Even more troubling, the band couldn’t hear each other on stage which made for some awkward syncing on songs without a heavy drum beat like “Ghost Of You Lingers”. Although he was clearly frustrated, Britt handled the sound issues like a pro and still managed to put on an excellent show by all accounts. Instead of discouraging him, he seemed to throw himself even more into performance, especially during the encore, where he thanked the crowd for sticking through and being “the best audience ever”. Classy fellow that Britt Daniel.
Head over to setlist.fm to view the show’s setlist.
View more Spoon / Deerhunter pictures after the jump. Click here for the entire set.