Last night, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Spoon play in Brooklyn, New York's Kings Theater. And it's difficult for me to imagine a better way to spend an evening.
For starters - and this was almost as essential to the experience as the music was - the theater is absolutely gorgeous. Located in the middle of Brooklyn's Flatbush neighborhood, the theater was a huge attraction for vaudeville shows and films in the 1930s and '40s, all the way up through its closing in 1977; in 2010, it began a $93 million renovation and reopened for the first time in nearly 40 years just this past February.
Filled with deep, rich golds and reds, high ceilings and a really well organized floor plan, the theater is sure to become one of the real destinations for musical acts coming through the New York area. See some photos above; the place is stunning. Check out more upcoming shows on their website.
After a fairly underwhelming opening act (The Antlers, whose recorded albums I actually do like), it was down to the business of the night. Led by guitarist and vocalist Britt Daniel (above, blonde hair) and drummer Jim Eno (left), Spoon played a near-perfect show. I had seen them once before, but they played a shortened set in the middle of a long day at a festival. This was different: this was a Spoon concert. They had the night to themselves, and they took full advantage.
A year off the release of the spectacular "They Want My Soul," Spoon no longer toured the album, per se; instead, it fit neatly into their repertoire of 8 full-length albums. They drew upon six of the eight, neglecting only the concert-unfriendly debut "Telephono" and, surprisingly, 1998's "A Series of Sneaks". "They Want My Soul" and "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga," probably the band's biggest commercial success, each provided six songs, with all three of the encore's songs coming from "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga". They played nearly everything you could reasonably expect to hear, with particular energy and enthusiasm coming during "Small Stakes" (where newest member Alex Fischel, whose excellence was a major theme of the show, was given a chance to really show off - it's linked above), "Do You" (one of the many hits off of the 2014 record) and "Got Nuffin," which finished the first set (also linked).
It's difficult to put a finger on what it is about Spoon that make them so appealing. There's the fact that the music so perfectly nails the essence of 2000s rock, without being boring or in any way blending in; there's the remarkable consistency in quality throughout their eight records; there's the instrumental balance, with Eno's essential role of holding everything down; all that considered, what really sells Spoon is untouchable mystique that surrounds Britt Daniel.
He's just cool. It's not the most descriptive way to describe someone, but I can't think of a musician who fits its vague definition better than Daniel does. Britt Daniel is a man of sophisticated taste, both musically and otherwise; his interviews are almost always candid and interesting, and the music speaks for itself. It's balanced, it's energetic and it's thoughtful. But perhaps what sets it apart is how agreeable a Spoon song is. It's not going to bother anyone, really - sure, there are some more experimental songs (for example, "The Ghost of You Lingers," which they played excellently during the show) that may not appeal to everyone's taste, but the vast majority of the songs are just great rock. And no one hates rock. "Rainy Taxi," (linked above) which opens "They Want My Soul," is one of the best examples. This is a rock band playing a rock song, but they're doing a way better job of it than anyone else out there, and they've been doing this exemplary job for some 20 years now.
Spoon are kind of like other great rock bands that you know, but they're just ever so different. It's the odd riff, the unusual, frequent, but wholly-unpredictable inflection in Daniel's voice (which belongs on any list of best rock n' roll voices of all time), the frantic, pacing guitar solos by Daniel or his bandmates in the middle of an otherwise composed song or the way the band falls far, far apart as part of a measured attack, only to join forces again by the end of a song; these aspects, among others, set them apart. They're just better than anyone else doing it these days. Cooler, smarter, wiser, and better.
Some things age poorly, but not Spoon. "They Want My Soul" is arguably their finest work yet, and if the surprising inclusion of a new single ("Satisfied") in last night's show is to serve as any hint, there's more to come.
So, I ask: are Spoon the best rock band in the world today?
Yes. Yes, they are.