Location: Center Stage, Atlanta, GA, April 14, 2008
Supporting Act(s): The Walkmen, White Rabbits
In The Company Of: Thomas S.
There are many categories of success in the music industry. Some bands have the backing of a record label and are heavily marketed. Other bands garner a huge following of fans and ride that wave via word-of-mouth exposure to success. Spoon falls in the latter category. Formed in 1994 in Austin, Texas, vocalist/guitarist Britt Daniel along with drummer Jim Eno embarked on what would become a very long journey.
Spoon is touring in support of their 2007 release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The band kicked off the show with “The Beast And Dragon, Adored,” from their previous album, 2005’s “Gimme Fiction.” Daniel’s crisp, almost hoarse voice was the perfect vehicle for the biting, intelligent lyrics. Besides Daniel and Eno, Spoon now consists of Eric Harvey on keyboards and Rob Pope on bass. Pope joined the band in 2006 after the breakup of his former band, Kansas City’s Get Up Kids (he even yelled, “Chiefs!” into the mic when he saw my sweatshirt). The four-piece played well together, often joking and usually smiling. The sound, like the camaraderie, was tight.
Spoon epitomizes the best things about a spontaneous band. Sure, fans want to hear a recognizable version of the songs they love, but Spoon goes further by making the live versions even better. These are excellent musicians and superior live performers. Introducing “Eddie’s Ragga,” Daniel stated that, while the band rarely jams, this song came from one.
Pinpointing the band’s influences can be difficult. Usually, Indie Rock is how Spoon is labeled (especially after their disastrous experience with Elektra Records in 1998, which forced them to begin again from scratch). They possess a truly unique sound, yet some genres do come to mind when listening. For example, Motown and Soul frequently bleed out of certain songs, and Brit Pop seems obvious. “Finer Feelings” sounds suspiciously like an old Style Council tune. Some listeners may hear some Squeeze, maybe a little Beatles. Daniel is an expert guitarist and treated the audience to many bizarre and extraordinary sounds. Along with the keyboard-tambourine-guitar prowess of Eric Harvey and the rhythm section of Eno and Pope, anything seems possible. “Small Stakes,” from the Kill The Moonlight album (2002), features an addictive groove and almost monotone singing, with plenty of sonic thrills throughout, all while Daniels voice echoes along.
Daniel’s tall, angular frame as well as his striking features and blond hair may make one reminiscent of a young Gary Busey. Artistically, he exhibits traits of a Nick Lowe or a Neil Finn. Whatever he reminds you of, he’s nothing if not a rousing performer. He took time after nearly every song to talk with the audience and even signed a poster of a begging fan standing in the front. The entire band seemed genuinely happy to be in Atlanta.
Other highlights included their breakthrough hit, the Jaggeresque “I Turn My Camera On,” from Gimme Fiction and “Stay Don’t Go” from “Moonlight.” Among the many songs featured from Ga Ga were “Don’t You Evah,” “Rhthm And Soul,” “Black Like Me,” the political “Don’t Make Me A Target (possibly a jab at a fellow Texan in a high office, if you get my drift…),” “The Ghost Of You Lingers,” and their single, “The Underdog” (“You got no time for the messenger / got no regard for the thing that you don’t understand / you got no fear of The Underdog / that’s why you will not survive”).
Hailing from New York City (by way of Columbia, Missouri), the White Rabbits opened the show with an Indie-pop sound with hints of ska drifting in and out (if you listen closely). The Rabbits sported two drummers and members tended to switch instruments without warning. Founding members Greg Roberts on guitar and Stephen Patterson on keyboards share lead vocal duties. They are on the road supporting their first full-length record Fort Nightly. It was truly an energetic set, and although they were not the group most people paid to see, they kept the crowd hopping and happy.
The NYC-based band The Walkmen filled the middle slot. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s powerful, nearly strained voice guaranteed that nearly every song would be filled with soul and emotion. The marching drums kept the pace hurried for most of their set. An Indie rock band with clear connections to post-punk seemed to be a crowd favorite.