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Ya hit me like a tom

April 3, 2010

Image courtesy Flickr user kk+

Spoon with Deerhunter and Micachu & the Shapes
Aragon Ballroom
Chicago, Illinois
April 1, 2010

I don’t care what any rapper wants to tell me about swagger: they don’t know a thing until they’ve seen Spoon play.
I expected Britt Daniel & Co. to exude cool, but their relaxed demeanor and effortless performance were truly a spectacle to behold.

The evening started a bit slowly for myself, thanks to some notorious Chicago traffic, which caused me to miss the performance of Micachu & the Shapes. I felt fortunate, however, that Deerhunter were just prepping for their set as we entered the cavernous ballroom.

Though I enjoyed their last album, Microcastle, it had a distinct tendency to ramble and generally just go on for too long. Prior to their set I had fears that particular aspect of their music would be prominent in their live show. Luckily the Georgia natives found a way to inject improvisational creativity into their performance.

Bradford Cox utilized his effects adeptly, creating their signature layers of sound and blowing out the speakers in the venue. The walls of noise that the quartet created were intense, to the point that by the end of their set the noise was almost unbearable. Their departing song fell into the category of repetitious and obnoxious, leaving a bit of a bad taste in my mouth about their performance.

It only took a few strums of Britt Daniel’s acoustic guitar to remove any lingering hostility, however.

Daniel began Spoon’s set solo on stage with just an acoustic guitar. Standing by himself upstage center he launched into “Me and the Bean,” picking out the chords and high notes with the greatest of ease. He plowed right through to “The Mystery Zone” being joined halfway through by Eric Harvey pounding out rhythms on the piano.

After their two-song intro drummer Jim Eno and bassist Rob Pope joined the pair on stage and launched into their set. From the first notes the band owned the stage and the crowd.

The opening chords for each song were met with applause and enthusiasm, which the band rewarded with flawless play. They played a good mixture of songs from their discography, relying a bit more heavily on Kill the Moonlight and their two most recent albums.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of their concert, and the most indicative of the poise they exhibited, was how true each song sounded to the album version. Daniel’s staccato, often frenetic, guitar parts were replicated with precision; a feat much more impressive considering the flair he exhibited on stage.

To watch them was a thing of beauty. Their brass-less take on “The Underdog” was magnificent and the execution of “Don’t You Evah’s” slick groove was enough to move the hips of even the stiffest members of the audience.

One of the most impressive songs from their setlist was “The Ghost of You Lingers,” from 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which took on an entirely new character performed live. They upped the ante even further when they launched into a cover of Wolf Parade’s “Modern World,” making it sound suave as ever.

After playing nearly two hours, including the encore, Daniel set his guitar down and declared their stay in Chicago had just one song left. Harvey began to hammer the chords for “The Way We Get By” to a roar of approval from the crowd, but a brief miscommunication between band members caused Daniel to jumble his way through the first verse.

As a sort of apology after the song Daniel quickly picked his guitar up again and began aggressively strumming the palm-muted chords of “Johnathon Fisk” to wrap up the show. It was an incredibly classy redemption from one of the coolest live acts on earth.

(Small) Mistakes and all, Spoon left no Chicago fans dissatisfied Thursday evening, except for those who could not attend. And for those unlucky fans I feel sorry, because they missed one hell of a cool show.

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