Spoon @ Shephard’s Bush Empire, London 07.11.14

US alt. rock vets visit these shores to showcase lauded recent LP They Want My Soul

Nov 7th, 2014 at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London / By Dave Reynolds
Spoon A visit by the indie-alt giants Spoon to our shores is surely a just cause for a fireworks display. Some may claim it was both a continuation of Bonfire Night, and a private display being held at the nearby Hilton, but for the bamboozled American who asked why there were fireworks going off shortly before Spoon’s show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, they were likely even more confused after my explanation that it was in honour of what she understood as cutlery.

Spoon have one of those gloriously incongruous names that almost seems to exist to make them difficult to find online. But this is 2014. We have DuckDuckGo and !Bangs. And besides, Spoon have been plugging away since before the internet was available for chumps like you and me. They’ve released eight albums across twenty years. The result is a bountiful back catalogue that positively groans under the sheer weight of mineable material for live shows.

The problem with fellow Spoon fans that have crossed my path is that there is not one defining album or even one track that we can unite and say: “This is it. This is our collective favourite.” But what a glorious thing this is! Having to endure an M83 gig last year with a solid 75% of an audience just waiting for their ‘Midnight City’ moment is positively draining for the other 25% of us, and surely the band too. Instead, Spoon’s live show feels like a greatest hits show, except everything they play is the greatest hit to someone, and it’s wonderfully freeing.

This year’s excellent album They Want My Soul gets a decent amount of airtime, as one would expect. A record with a more grand and expansive vision than past records perhaps, but still retaining that vital sense of scuffed-up rock when it needs to. The second track of the night is ‘Rent I Pay’ from the aforementioned new record, bursting to life in its grizzly, fuzzed-up riffs. But we also get the more ethereal album cut ‘Inside Out’ which descends into both Britt Daniel (vocals/guitar) and Eric Harvey (guitar/keyboards) jumping onto separate keyboards as it enters its jammy and daydreamy conclusion.

Part of Spoon’s appeal is to make music that’s slightly off-kilter. Nothing is straight forwards and easily decipherable in their world, and that’s surely a contributing factor in their longevity and endearing popularity. What’s even more fantastic is hearing it pulled off so nimbly live. ‘The Ghost Of You Lingers’ is a perfect example of that, with its somewhat jarring keys, reverb-filled vocals and a fuzz of noise driving those front-rowers to jump-around just as excitedly as they would for the more radio-friendly moments.

A sense of occasion and a show that created a grand sense of wonderment, a double encore is greedily consumed and yet gone all too soon. While it’s terribly begrudging of me to find fault or a flaw, the only disappointment is that no material from the 2001 album Girls Can Tell got an airing. But it does a disservice to wring hands about a setlist choice. What we witnessed was a band that seems to get better and better with age. Here’s hoping for another twenty years.