Spoon, Live at the Crystal Ballroom

After taking a five year break from visiting Portland, Spoon returned last night for their second show in less than six months, but even with the quick turnaround the fans last night were excited to see the one-time locals once again.  Breaking free from the tentativeness of their previous festival-headlining slot at MusicFestNW, the band seemed energized to bring their show back to a more intimate venue with a devoted audience.  It makes one wish that Spoon would stop by every month of the year.

Hopefully we won't have to use this photo for the next concert as well.

Hopefully we won’t have to use this photo for the next concert as well.

It was clear almost immediately that the time spent touring in support of their excellent new album They Want My Soul was well-spent, as the band sounded crisper and more spirited than they did at their show this past summer.  Even during moments when it seemed like not everyone was in sync, there was still a feeling of calm that they would let any temporary road bumps slide and they could line up again soon enough.  This palpable sense of trust in each other allowed the band to flash some showier stage tricks (like Britt Daniel pulling a Johnny Cash and aiming his guitar as a gun to add an exclamation point to some of his licks) or recover quickly from quick fuckups (like Britt dropping the mic in “The Way We Get By”).

At this point it is nearly impossible for Spoon to come up with a bad setlist, considering they’ve released six stellar albums in a row, and as a result the band can choose freely from a deep catalog.  Though it was a bit disappointing for me personally to have Girls Can Tell shut out, that was balanced out by hearing hidden gems like “They Never Got You” from Gimme Fiction and “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case”.  Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga made up the lion’s share of the set, with a punched-up and dramatic version of “The Ghost Of You Lingers” being a standout of the early part of the set.  Driving numbers like “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” and “Don’t Make Me A Target” got the crowd bouncing along, with more than a few totally cutting loose during main set closer “Got Nuffin'”.

Britt takes stock of the audience

Britt takes stock of the audience

The encore kicked off with the fantastic “Black Like Me”, though it was a bit disappointing to have the crowd not respond en masse with the “yeah”s and “oh yeah”s.  I suspected that the cover that the band played was from The Cramps, and I was proud to see that my suspicions were confirmed as they indeed played their song “My TV Set” (while I try to be as knowledgeable as possible, my expertise is not perfect, and I only have a rudimentary knowledge of the band).  Spoon finished the night with “a song that I wrote in Southeast”, and the audience was overjoyed to hear that the ebullient “The Underdog” was a local product.  We can only hope that Britt comes back for more inspiration soon.

A Giant Dog were the first openers, and they were an energetic group that kept spirits high; it was nice to hear Britt plug their other show that night at Dante’s, noting though that if you saw him there to not talk to him because he wanted to truly take in their music.  Future Islands, despite all the accolades they’ve received so far, did little to impress despite my intention to approach them with an open mind; instead, I feel as if it may be necessary to note specifically what it is that bothers me about their sound, but I don’t want to take away any more from the main act.  Spoon delivered a superb show, and it’s wonderful to see their career continue to thrive.

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