Spoon @ The Hi-Fi, 11/02/15
Vocalist Britt Daniel’s voice is every bit of wonderful raspiness as propagated by each song recorded by Spoon. These guys carry out their characteristically calculated and finessed sound with utter effortlessness and candour. The throw-away cool that just comes naturally to them, and their sound which doesn’t seem to owe itself to any one particular influence - all support their tenure of Metacritic’s Artist of the Decade title.
From their chinos to their arched-top guitars sporting classical f-holes, preppy neatness is conveyed in both their sound and their execution. Their disinterest in messiness resulting in a sound that is impeccably well-put together, they are totally in command of what they're doing.
Heralding the start of ‘Don’t You Evah’, Daniels utters bet you got it all planned right.., as guitarist Eric Harvey manages a keyboard solo with his guitar still slung across him, and a harmonica in his mouth. So clearly enunciated is every aspect of their musicianship, it seems unlikely they’re even drinking during their performance. ‘Meticulous’ is often used to describe them, and they’re clearly perfectionists - yet, they’re still dynamic and totally rocking.
With their intelligent and concise lyrics, echoing with poignant truths, I’m reminded of a Blues-infused Vampire Weekend of the South... While this discreet nod towards a blues influence perhaps likens them also to Cold War Kids, Spoon is a band that really, has no peers. It’s hard to discern exactly who has influenced their sound, so intricately woven together are the elements of the whole.
Daniels’ performance as lead is almost theatrical, in its measured injection of emotion, balanced with restraint. He’s down on his knees as he howls time’s gone inside out..., while at other times his guitar is held right out to the side, while still being played. Wind blowing from below complements minimalist lighting effects of a red and blue oscillating glow.
From watching Spoon perform live, I’m left with deep respect for a band who meticulously uncover the possibilities of knowing a tonne about musical technique and history, to formulate something that is really difficult to compare with anything of a ‘similar sound’. Rather than honing any sort of image or hallmark, they seem to care only about the precision of their performance as musicians of the highest quality and integrity - which is nonetheless complemented by an essence that is offbeat in its own way.
As they wrap up with a seriously punchy delivery of ‘I Turn My Camera On’, I’m reminded of all the tv and movie soundtracks featuring Spoon, and the distinctive way they’ve contributed to the cultural landscape of the last decade. Their sound is almost synonymous with The O.C. and other pop manifestations of West Coast cool, justifying again their status as ‘Artist of the Decade’.
But what is it about Spoon that equates directly with their longevity? Their music is a complex and unpredictable layering, with pretty, underlying piano melodies that give them their timelessness, and render their music untouchable by the fickleness of fashion.
Of course, there’s a long list of songs I was disappointed at not hearing... ‘Finer Feelings’, ‘The Way We Get By’, ‘The Mystery Zone’, ‘Written in Reverse’, ‘My Little Japanese Cigarette Case’... but this probably only consolidates what a consistently prolific band Spoon is, giving the noughties something to be proud of.
I’ve bought tickets to see Deep Sea Arcade twice before, and having failed to make it there both times, I was struck by a sense of triumph when I arrived at the Hi-Fi to find that they were supporting Spoon. Considering too their more recent fading into the ether of Australian music, I was really delighted that I would now finally catch their kaleidoscopically subdued sound in action.
While lead Nic Mckenzie was impressive at swinging his mic around at the end of its lead, it was a different performance to what I expected... Less polished than their recordings, it totally lacked the synthed-out astral vibe of Outlands that I imagined; the seamlessly composed elements of a whole, that I had always appreciated. The four of them sounded messy, like a newly-formed band that hasn't found a comfortable grounding as a group yet. The vocalist was almost whiney, reminding me of those American garage-punk bands that were big in 2004...
While they're clearly all good musicians, it doesn't seem like they're really a whole anymore. As far as I know, they haven't made any new music for awhile - so it makes me wonder... What have they all been doing? Have they dispersed into different projects? Who is this band now? Which is exactly what someone said as Deep Sea Arcade left the stage. ‘I saw them a few years ago, and that was not the same band...’