Spoon are a big enough band to play Merriweather Post Pavilion, but they choose to play smaller venues like the 9:30 Club — as they did last week! This is because, quite simply, Britt Daniel and the rest of the guys in this band are cool. They write great songs, and they perform them well. There’s no bullshit with Spoon, just rock ‘n’ roll; they don’t waste a lot of time on chatter — it’s all about the songs. They give you enough to feel satisfied, but they also know when it’s time to leave before you’re worn out, exhausted, and you’ve had too much. Because, Spoon, as I’ve, is a cool band.
Spoon has always been cool — and maybe that’s because they’re the embodiment of Austin. Not Austin as it is now, but Austin as it was in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when Britt was a student at the University of Texas. This was before Dell came to town, before the population massively swelled, rents skyrocketed, and artists and musicians were driven out of the core city. That process was in full swing when I was there in the mid-oughts, and I am told it has progressed considerably since.
While Spoon’s always been cool, they haven’t always been been big. They faced real struggles for almost a decade after their launch in 1993. Their initial efforts didn’t get the kind of critical buzz their later work would (they’re still strong albums — you can’t say that any of this band’s aren’t at least good), nor did they sell as much. Only after Daniel had moved to New York, where he was working temp jobs, did Spoon release their critical breakthrough, 2001’s Girls Gan Tell. Increasing commercial success followed with their next several records.
I want to make an observation about Britt Daniel, who is the creative driving force behind Spoon: He doesn’t shove it in your face, but between the lyrics and what’s going on in the music, it’s pretty clear he’s one of your sharper customers. It did not surprise me to learn his father’s a neurologist. Consider the title of the last song played in the first encore at 9:30 Club on April 11: “Black Like Me.” That’s also the title of a 1961 work of nonfiction — if you want to know more, look it up; my point is, this is not exactly a piece of knowledge everyone is walking around with and ready to riff on. What really impresses me about Britt’s lyrics is how he manages to be literary in a way that’s completely unpretentious, that makes it all feel very natural.
Musically, there’s a lot going on with Spoon, and what’s going on can be different from album to album, even song to song. In “My Babe,” I heard a little of Guns N Roses’ power ballad “November Rain,” although it went in entirely different direction. That was off of their recently released album, Lucifer on the Sofa, which was, in many ways, an homage and updating of classic rounds. “The Hardest Cut,” for example, nods to The Kinks, The Who, and ZZ Top, while “Wild” flirts with heartland rock of Seeger and Springsteen.
Watch Spoon perform “The Hardest Cut” live from The Teragram in Los Angeles via YouTube:
The set began with a cover of Smog’s “Held,” and each of the encores featured one as well. During the first encore, Margaret Glaspy joined the band to sign on Richard and Linda Thompson’s “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight,” while the second encore kicked off with John Lennon’s “Isolation.” If you think about it, you can see how those covers all make sense in the same show.
Songs from the new album were featured heavily and also included “The Devil & Mr. Jones” and the title cut, which feels like a spectral journey through the band’s hometown. But there were plenty of old favorites, too: “Small Stakes,” “Inside Out,” “The Underdog,” “Don’t Make A Target,” “My Mathematical Mind,” “Summon You,” “Don’t You Evah,” “Do You,” and “Got Nuffin,” which closed the main set.
The first encore kicked off with “The Beast and Dragon Adored,” and it also included the first live performance of “Rhythm & Soul” since 2015. The second encore included “I Turn My Camera On” and “The Way We Get By,” and concluded with “Rent I Pay.”
Watch Spoon perform “Rent I Pay” live for KEXP in 2014 on YouTube:
NYC-based singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy opened the show. A native of Red Bluff, California, she briefly attended Berklee College of Music. After playing around Boston, she moved to Brooklyn, where she joined the band The Fundles, who released an EP in 2012. Later that year, she released her first solo recording, the EP Homeschool. A second self-released EP, If & When, followed a year. In 2015, she signed with the indie label, ATO records, and her debut LP, Emotions and Math, came out in 2016. Her second full-length album, Devotion, was released in 2020.
Margaret combines an introspective lyricism with a gritty rock edge, which was evident in the songs she she shared from her two records. “Stay With Me” is as plaintive as “Vicious” is the opposite. “Memory Street,” with its exploration of nostalgia, was well-placed in her set immediately before “You and I.” “Emotions and Math” and “Situation” are both powerful songs, but Glaspy was right to end her part of the evening with the rousing political anthem “My Body, My Choice.”
Watch the official music video for “You and I” by Margaret Glaspy on YouTube:
I’ve complimented Britt Daniel already, and it’s clear he has good taste — Glaspy was an excellent choice to open this show. What she does was close enough to Spoon that the audience would dig it, while being distinct it enough that it brought it something else to the party. Finding just that right balance is a tightrope act, and they nailed it. Everyone nailed everything about this evening, start to finish — great music, great rock ‘n’ roll, a great time.
Here are some photos of Spoon performing at 9:30 Club on April 11, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Kyle Gustafson.
Here are some photos of Margaret Glapsy performing at 9:30 Club on April 11, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Kyle Gustafson.