Spoon is a Texas band, meaning it carries with it a certain pride and ambition that never really allows it to settle down. Britt Daniel and his bandmates produce the kind of music in which every pop, squeak, cymbal hit and second of silence matters. Every noise and lack thereof needs the utmost precision for it all to come together right. Which, live, rarely happens, and they never seem to be able to let it go. At a show in 2007, when Daniel smashed his piano, he wasn't doing it as an antic, but because he was frustrated with its sound. In 2010, when he lambasted a hometown crowd for their lack of enthusiasm, he did so less to get them excited and more because he realized he couldn't entertain the way he had hoped.
There always seems to be something just a little bit off, at least in Daniel's head. That has helped him and his bandmates create some of the most enjoyable albums of the 2000s. But when it comes to live shows, it's what has made the band earn a reputation for being stiff and over-calculating. Consistent and tight, surely, but inevitably boring. Never truly great. All of that is why it was such a wonderful surprise to see a Spoon on stage at the sold-out Fox Theatre that was actually willing to forgo calculations and ambition for fun.
Daniel, usually content to sit at a piano or stand still behind the mike focusing on every note, instead kneeled on stage while blasting guitar solos. He stood and danced on an amp in the back, whispering through a reverb-heavy mike, bathed in red and blue light. He let his already dynamic voice play with timing and melody, choosing what sounded right in the moment. Alex Fischel, on guitar and keyboard, toed the line between order and chaos throughout, playing with pure instinct and fury. The drums were loud, the keyboards bursting with energy. This wasn't Spoon re-enacting a long-rehearsed set; this was Spoon actually playing a live show.
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A third of the way through the hit-heavy set, the band launched into "Underdog." For the first verse, Daniel sang a cappella, and right before he went into the chorus, he gave the world's biggest grin. The crowd collectively lost its shit. Everything builds with Spoon, its songs, albums and career alike -- and that night, everything built to that stupid grin the mass reaction elicited. From then on, it was a blur of cheering, frantic tambourine playing, and group sing-a-longs to lyrics such as "Don't make me a target," and "We get high in the back seat of cars." It instantly became the show Spoon has been trying to play for over a decade.
It was so fitting that it was such a jubilant show, because Spoon isn't a band you listen to when you're sad. There's a certain dissonance and there are some minor chords and noise, true. But Spoon songs, at their heart, contain the confidence and creativity that makes music so goddamn fun to listen to. There's a joy in them, and that joy was evident on Daniel's face and in the notes he played and in the rest of the band's loose and excited spirit.
Spoon will always be a consistent and tight band, and a band that continues to push its own limits. It's why they've been able to maintain such a long, successful career, and the reason it was able to sell out the Fox (a tiny venue for them) in under a day. But now, with eight albums and close to twenty years under its belt, the members of the band are ready to relax and celebrate their achievements. And in doing so, like they did Sunday night in Boulder, they have finally become great. • BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS •
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