After suffering through a torrential downpour, indie-rock all-stars Spoon, and the good folks at River-to-River, still managed to put on a show that, while shortened, was quality from the get-go. Touring on the backs of their much-anticipated new album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (QRO review), on July 11th the Austin-born band still managed to not neglect their three previous records, 2005’s Gimme Fiction, 2002’s Kill the Moonlight, and 2001’s Girls Can Tell (though didn’t delve back any farther than that). They may not have played every song you love from their large repertoire, and the crowd was sorely disappointed that there was no encore (going so far as to stick around past the return of the house music, and even booing the stage crew when they appeared to strike the set), but those are problems of plenty. Given the circumstances, Spoon rang every ounce of a good time out of a soaked Wednesday evening at downtown Manhattan’s Rockefeller Park.
After wisely skipping the opening band (Brooklyn’s Coin Under the Tongue), Spoon made another smart choice and started things off with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’s “Eddie’s Ragga”, a slow but reggae-rocking number that really lifted the damp crowd’s spirits. They then launched into Ga’s opener, “Don’t Make Me A Target”, which may be an inferior version of Kill the Moonlight’s hit single “The Way We Get By” (a much-requested song that Spoon didn’t play), but live, it served as a nice reminder of Spoon’s extensive greatness. The trip down memory lane continued with Gimme Fiction’s “My Mathematical Mind” and Moonlight’s “Small Stakes”; while not the best choices from those two great albums, “Mind” certainly surprised the crowd, and the pushing, high indie-pop keyboards of “Stakes” worked particularly well live, perhaps as the more electronic number was in such opposition to the nature-wracked setting.
But the evening’s highest part started just after, with Ga’s wonderfully, infectiously fun and rousing first single, “The Underdog”. This was also when the horn section first made their appearance, and they seemed to bring the show to another level whenever they were on stage. Certainly the most-appreciated Ga track that night, it evoked Billy Joel playing in Central Park in the seventies in all the right ways. There was a little bit of a tonal change when “Underdog” was followed by Moonlight’s “Stay Don’t Go”, but the techno-beat single, like “Small Stakes”, utilized its electronic nature as a nice counterpoint to the rain. And next came yet another single, the biggest one yet, Fiction’s “I Turn My Camera On”; easily the crowd favorite of the concert, its danceable coolness grooved particularly well.
Spoon returned to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga with “Black Like Me” and “Rhthm & Soul”. Along with Girls Can Tell’s “Chicago At Night”, these songs took things to a darker level as the light faded, maybe a bit too abruptly, but time and weather constraints probably forced the band to wedge in their still-welcome tragic tones. Spoon slipped a bit as they headed towards the close, with the second-in-a-row Girls track “Take A Walk”, that never quite jived with the crowd, and was probably the weakest piece of the evening. But Ga’s “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” brought things back up in ways very similar to the (admittedly rather similar) “Underdog”, including great, great horns. And the band ended things well with the driving Moonlight single “Jonathan Fisk”, and perhaps the most moving number of the night, Fiction’s “I Summon You”, which closed out the under-fifty minute set.
The crowd may have wanted a lot more (especially the ones who’d stayed up front during the long, heavy rain delay), and you could hardly blame them after the sweetness they’d been given. But you could also hardly blame Spoon for what they delivered; they even cut out virtually all between-song banter, with one of the only snippets being singer/guitarist Britt Daniels’ “They’re telling us to get off stage – We’ll keep trying.” There could have possibly been some better song choice, like Moonlight’s “The Way We Get By”, or Ga’s “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” and/or “Finer Feelings”, but that’s quibbling with the details. Or put it this way: if the crowd sticks around to boo the stage crew for coming on and confirming the show is over, you’ve either put on a great show or a terrible one, and Spoon’s was definitely great.