LIVE: Spoon @ Upstate Concert Hall, 12/5/17

Review by Steven Stock

Spoon has been touring since February 27 in support of their new LP Hot Thoughts, so it’s hardly surprising that their performance in Clifton Park last week was impeccably executed, full of smooth segues and subtly dramatized by a well-conceived light show. The Upstate Concert Hall was packed with sweaty happy fans, an interesting mix of bearded hipsters, frat boys with baseball caps and quite a few ladies. Spoon have become rock stars without pandering to their audience.

It didn’t take much for front-man Britt Daniel to captivate the crowd: raising his appealing yelp to falsetto for a brief phrase in “Got Nuffin” did the trick, and so did his Townshend-esque windmill guitar-playing on “Everything Hits at Once.”

With an extra musician supplementing the core quartet, Spoon proved to be flexible and versatile, utilizing two keyboards to summon a New Order-inflected sound on tracks such as “Inside Out,” then switching both keys men to guitars for the subsequent “I Turn My Camera On.” Daniel indulged his punk roots with a glorious burst of atonal guitar skronk during “The Beast and Dragon, Adored.”

Not everything the band attempted was successful. The portentous keyboard exercise “Via Kannela” was utter crap – perhaps intended as a nod to Low-era Bowie, it instead came across as an Ultravox parody. Daniel’s guitar histrionics notwithstanding, “Everything Hits at Once” still sounded like some of the whitest funk you’d ever want to hear.

Yet every misstep was easy to forgive when the band hit its stride. “My Mathematical Mind” turned into a psychedelic freak-out that would’ve made Syd Barrett proud, while “Don’t Make Me a Target” boasted an irresistible Mott the Hoople-like groove enhanced by a too-brief piano solo that evoked former Bowie sideman Mike Garson.

At times I suspected that I might enjoy perusing the musicians’ record collections as much as I enjoyed their performance, so I was inordinately pleased when Spoon’s encore opened with a cover of Wire’s “Lowdown” – pleased to hear a great song, doubly pleased to have a suspicion confirmed. Ultimately though, they played it so damn well that I was forcibly reminded that Spoon is, in fact, a fine band in its own right, greater than the sum of the members’ collective influences.

Do I Have to Talk You Into It?
Inside Out
I Turn My Camera On
The Beast and Dragon, Adored
Car Radio
Don’t You Evah
Do You
Via Kannela
I Ain’t the One
Everything Hits at Once
Can I Sit Next to You
My Mathematical Mind
Don’t Make Me a Target
The Underdog
Got Nuffin
Black Like Me
Pink Up
Hot Thoughts
Rent I Pay

Jim Shahen Jr.’s review at The Times Union

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