It’s midway through Spoon’s set at Forum Kentish Town. A fired up Britt Daniel has just led the band, backlit in orange, through a ferociously jubilant Do You. Multi-instrumentalist Alex Fischel begins a moody keyboard piece that gradually swells to Sigur Ros levels of intensity.
As Gerardo Larios joins in on organ, the instrumental slowly shifts again, culminating in his playing the unmistakable melody of I Ain’t The One alone. And somewhere from the shadows Daniel croons the opening verse, his earlier swagger now all restraint and composure. Together, he and Larios hypnotise the audience with silences and subtleties, the spell they cast unbroken by the faster, heavier portions where drummer Jim Eno and bass player Rob Pope bring the beat.
A standout in an otherwise high impact set, the tender new song highlights Spoon’s approach to live performance: crank up the intensity of the studio recordings so they sound more emotional, more visceral, more engaging.
My Mathematical Mind, all minor piano chords, big beats, and the occasional discordant guitar lick on 2005’s Gimme Fiction, becomes truly seismic. As Daniel sings and plays with all the ferocity of Iggy Pop, and Eno pounds his kit like John Bonham, the five men on stage masterfully push the songs’s loud-quiet dynamic to the limit.
By the time the frontman is strangling an angular solo out of his guitar, the musicians should all be ready for a lie down but, without even pausing for breath, they attack Don’t Make Me A Target with equal vigour.
That unbridled energy, impressive for a new band let alone one celebrating their 25th anniversary next year, ensures the seamless flow of a set that reaches as far back as 2001’s Girls Can Tell LP. So that album’s keyboard-led Anything You Want, a pounding Stay Don’t Go (from 2002’s Kill The Moonlight), or a stripped back solo rendition of Gimme Fiction standout I Summon You, don’t sound out of place in a show rightfully focusing on the band’s strongest work: 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, 2014’s They Want My Soul, and this year’s masterful Hot Thoughts.
The jangly, grooving Don’t You Evah, summery The Underdog, and soulful Black Like Me sound even fresher than they did 10 years ago. The previous-album contingent brings out the rock star moments (triple-guitar assault Rent I Pay and big-throated Rainy Taxi) as well as blissed-out introspection (twinkly keyboard slow jam Inside Out).
But it’s the new songs that undoubtedly shine brightest. The buoyant and very coercive Do I Have To Talk You Into It is the perfect opener for such an invigorating show. The metronomic Can I Sit Next To You throws off its motorik shackles with a flamboyant synth solo and a kneeling Daniel wrestling with the feedback from his guitar.
And, as part of the encore, the joy of the glistening Hot Thoughts is encapsulated in the “wooh!” that regularly pops from the singer’s lips. He, like the audience, must certainly know that Spoon have never sounded better.
Live review of Spoon @ Forum Kentish Town by Nils van der Linden on 30th June 2017. Photography by Rachel Lipsitz.
Rachel has her own great site Rachel Lipsitz Photography