February 14 will have been noted in most people’s diaries as Valentines Day. For those in the know, however, it was the night that Spoon played King Tut’s, a surprisingly small venue for such an indie heavyweight. With sixteen years of experience and seven consistently high quality studio albums to draw on, this promised to be a gig to remember. I can only feel sorry for the couples whose plans will have inevitably been disrupted by this must-see musical event.
Surprisingly, support band White Rabbits are almost as memorable as their headliners. Dressed in jeans and shirts with carefully trimmed and styled hair, the Brooklyn sextet are a picture of New York trendiness. This isn’t, however, as the band are quick to demonstrate, a case of style over substance; they are serious and professional musicians, performing with precision and exuberance. Keyboard duets, three-way vocal harmonies and dual drummers relentlessly hammering a range of percussion produces a luxuriously full-bodied sound. Methodical mid-song instrument swapping proves further tribute to the quality of the band’s musicianship. White Rabbits’ performance is more akin to a carefully choreographed tribal dance than a traditional gig. The influence of Spoon’s leader Brit Daniel, who produced White Rabbits last album It’s Frightening, is also pleasingly evident. Although the band did not leave me scrambling for their merchandise counter, their technical prowess was a joy to watch and they are a near perfect compliment to their better-known tour mates.
Spoon begin their set with a series of slower songs, taking their time to gather momentum. It was probably the exhausting nature of White Rabbits’ set, but it takes the crowd some time before they really involve themselves in the show, and even then they remain surprisingly dispersed. Don’t Make Me A Target is the first song to really grab the audience, sending them jumping and swaying. This is followed by equally impassioned renditions of The Underdog, Written In Reverse and set highlight The Way We Get By.
On stage, Spoon do miss the brass elements that appear on their studio albums. In fact, it is difficult to detect any trace of the ska, soul or punk influences that have coloured their work at different stages. Although this leaves the set a little flat at times, it does not significantly detract from the quality of the show. Early Spoon tracks are rare and do not have quite the same vigour applied to more recent material, but are still the most popular amongst a crowd of aficionados. Daniel’s singing rises and falls beautifully, instilling all his personality into a set he wrote, directed and stars in. He is clearly in his element on stage and propels the show forward effortlessly.
I was pleased when Spoon re-emerged for their encore after only the briefest of departures: there was still an abundance of material I was anxious to hear. The Beast and Dragon Adored and I Turn My Camera On are duly delivered with all the character and attention to detail that Spoon’s performance had made one expect. The extended encore, which continued to draw largely from 2005 album Gimme Fiction, seemed to be exactly what the crowd wanted, which lingered sad-eyed and disappointed when the set was finally concluded. Spoon were on stage for close to ninety minutes, but had the material and support to play for twice as long. I was not the only one leaving King Tut’s that night wishing that they had.