Spoon have shown steady, unwavering growth since their inception in the '90s to become one of indie rock's most consistent bands of the last two decades. Very few groups can match Spoon's reliable discography, and on tour in support of their ninth album, Hot Thoughts, the Austin-based band made good use of their deep, excellent catalogue.
Led by Britt Daniel, the veteran band offered a classier-than-usual vibe in Toronto's Massey Hall ("What a beautiful venue, I feel like we're the von Trapp family") last night (July 25) that contrasted with their sweatier rock club and festival main stage sets. Starting with new track "Do I Have To Talk You Into It," Spoon entered the stage in the dark with just enough swagger to combat the lighting issues that continued into the bouncy "Inside Out" from 2014's They Want My Soul. Fans started to light up the stage with their collective smartphones, but luckily by the time the band started the well-known "I Turn My Camera On," the strobes and five-panel lighting display behind them were also turned on.
Spoon's set was largely made up of material that followed their modest nudge into the mainstream, post-"I Turn My Camera On" and after releasing Gimme Fiction in 2005. For most bands, this would be an outrage — "Hardcore fans want to hear the old stuff!" — but Spoon's newer albums are arguably just as beloved as their predecessors. Two of Spoon's more poppier recent cuts, They Want My Soul's "Do You" and Hot Thought's title track, saw most of the audience stand up and dance to guitarist Alex Fischel's animated angular guitar playing and Daniel's catchy melodies and roguish words.
A scruffier version of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga's "Don't Make Me a Target" especially hit the mark when Daniel produced his signature tattered yell and crouched down in the corner of the stage, adding bits of shredded guitar to the song's distorted bridge. This ragged ethos was also introduced into "Everything Hits at Once" from 2001's Girls Can Tell, and also garnered a warm reception.
As a live band, Spoon generally stray a bit from the clean-cut sharpness of their records. The triumphant horns that define the recorded version of "The Underdog" were replaced by Gerardo Larios' less extravagant keyboard, while Rob Pope's malleable bass line on "Don't You Evah" rumbled a little bit louder than usual. Daniel, who tends to wander the stage, missed a few vocal cues, but made up for it by hollering even louder into the mic. Holding everyone together was Jim Eno, whose tight percussion is the backbone to many Spoon songs. Rather than coming off as over-rehearsed, the rest of the band's imperfections on stage felt loose and charming, and added some intriguing unpredictability to their show.
Spoon's latest record, Hot Thoughts, uses more spacey textures and fluctuating electronics, adding in psychedelic flourishes that accent the band's carefully honed edges, and they were made apparent live with Fischel's extended synth-driven noise introduction to "I Ain't the One" and during the encore performance of "Pink Up," on which Eno's thumping kick drum paired with swirling atmospheres to sound like the band's best Jamie xx impression.
Spoon ended their encore and 90-minute set with the snarling angst of "Got Nuffin," one of the more genuinely raw and up-front rock songs in their catalogue. It was a fitting end to a night of music from one of today's most dependable but quietly ingenious rock bands.