It is the chicken and the egg of live music: Which came first? The band with the low energy resulting in a “meh” crowd to match? Or is it sole responsibility of an audience to metaphorically elevate its heroes above its shoulders? This, and other fine quandaries (including: “Who would win a fight: Captain Picard or Darth Vader“?) were debated when Texas’ Spoon arrived onVancouver’s posh Orpheum stage.
Okay, sure. Eric Harvey’s piano/keys sounded fab. It’s what sets Spoon’s minimalist, bluesy indie rock apart. The gothicky (Now! With added maracas!) cover of The Damned’s “Love Song” was a different level of pretty. Britt Daniel, poster-man for men and women who wear thick, black, record-store-clerk eyeglasses, has a shuffley kind of appeal. The OTHER songs from Transference – like show opener “Before Destruction”, the Cold War Kids-esque “Written in Reverse” and “Is Love Forever?” and the high-pitch sway of “Who Makes Your Money?” – were also awesome. Oldies like “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” and “Don’t Make Me a Target” were toe-tappery, “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” all Elton John-y and “The Way We Get By” was all Ryan-from-The-OC-wifebeater-vest-y.
Yeah, Spoon are pretty good, alright.
So why did the gig have that way-bit-more-than-halfway-through-the-tour vibe about it? It happens, certainly. Particularly with bands who are more than halfway through their tours.
But take Deerhunter, Spoon’s opener (along with Micachu and the Shapes) for example. Their singer, Bradford Cox, (not naked or in a dress as he is occasionally wont to be at live shows) playfully baited the quiet crowd, then clambered down into the audience. He made them laugh and cheer and bantered about a recently closed-down club. (“I do love me some Dicks on Dicks,” he joked, referring to the former Richards on Richards). Then he decided to play his guitar on the floor in front of the first rows. The sheer charisma of the beanpole meant that soon he had two people standing and dancing around him. And then came a handful more…and then! Hipsters! Out of their velveteen seats! In a theatre! Crowding around him in a circle! NOW THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!
And Spoon? The crowd were already standing when they got on stage. So half the work was done. But it took them until song 16 of 23 of the set list, “I Summon You” to elicit even some sustained claps. And these were FANS. Not to mention Daniel’s banter was limited to a very polite: “How you guys doin’?” and “I was walking around today and realized it’s been too long since we’ve been here in Vancouver. It’s a great place.” Awww, nice one, Britt! Thanks! Yawn-ish.
So is okay for a band at a live show to just sound good? You can’t really fault a band for that, can you?
Or, in these days of overpriced live gigs, can you? See? Another quandary.
Spoon, Live at the Orpheum, was presented by Timbre Productions Concerts.