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Live Review: Spoon at The Observatory in Santa Ana (3/6)

Are Britt Daniel and Co. finally going to get their due as one of this generation's great bands?

    In just a little more than a week, Spoon will release their ninth full-length album, Hot Thoughts. That’s more than 20 years of LPs from the Austin band, a run that’s seen them dip their toes into the major labels, crack the top five of the Billboard 200 on multiple occasions, and perform at the biggest festivals in the world. That’s the kind of success that breeds complacency, but not in Spoon, a rare example of a group that doesn’t show signs of slowing their creative ambitions.

    When Hot Thoughts comes out on March 17th, fans will hear an album every bit as essential to the Spoon catalog as their previous eight records. And better, they’ll hear a band that doesn’t treat this feat with any sort of cocky swagger. Spoon, both on record and on stage, are workmanlike, punching the clock with remarkable consistency, making it their job to hit a certain bar of quality without falling into the trap of predictability.

    On Monday night in Santa Ana, at their first proper American concert in support of their upcoming album, Britt Daniel and his crew demonstrated everything that the band quietly and confidently represents. Sure, the outfit has evolved over the years. Only drummer Jim Eno has been with Daniel since the group’s inception, though bassist Rob Pope and particularly keyboardist Alex Fischel have worked their way into becoming integral pieces of the band. Even new touring fifth member, Gerardo Larios, received a warm welcome in what was revealed to be only his third show with the band.

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    Fittingly, Spoon’s live show is designed to make the entirety of the band stand shoulder-to-shoulder, even if it is abundantly clear that it’s Daniel’s show. The lack of samples and prerecorded elements in the live presentation make it so the audience not only hears every little inflection of the instruments, but they know exactly where each sound is coming from. Slight rearrangements (or major ones in the case of “Black Like Me”) are hit with bold spotlights. The horns of “The Underdog” slyly emulated by keys. The focus of “Small Stakes” pushed to its driving synth line. “My Mathematical Mind” given the space to jam out in one of the evening’s most traditional rock and roll moments.

    A common misconception about Spoon is that they’ve long been stuck in the same sound, but the 17 songs presented on Monday night told a much different story. There’s the Beatles-in-the-garage bliss of “The Beast and Dragon Adored”, the bouncing pop harmonies of “Do You”, and the sneering snottiness of “Got Nuffin” each portraying differing glimpses into the same mirror, all held together by the constant of Daniel’s singular melodies. The four new songs presented continue this tradition, allowing the light to catch Spoon for different looks, new angles to illuminate a more flesh-out band than ever before. Does it take nine albums for Spoon to rightfully get their due as one of this generation’s best bands? Let’s hope so.

    Spoon Setlist:
    Do I Have to Talk You Into It
    Hot Thoughts
    Inside Out
    I Turn My Camera On
    The Beast and Dragon, Adored
    I Saw the Light
    Don’t You Evah
    The Underdog
    Black Like Me
    Small Stakes
    My Mathematical Mind
    Can I Sit Next To You?
    Do You
    Got Nuffin
    Rent I Pay
    Encore
    I Ain’t the One
    Rainy Taxi

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