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Review: Spoon crafts a polished live show; Future Islands just makes things weird

Following the massive rain storm of earlier in the day, a crowd flooded into the Crystal Ballroom on what turned out to be a warm and dry winter night to see Spoon in a sold-out show. The 94/7 FM December to Remember show also featured openers Future Islands and A Giant Dog.

There is a certain air of mystery around Spoon. An ominous song playing on the Crystal Ballroom speakers created a feeling of uncertainty and uneasiness as Spoon took the stage and transitioned smoothly into “Rainy Taxi” to begin its set. Touring in support of They Want My Soul, the set was heavy on new material and classics alike.

During the early parts of the set, after the luminous performance of “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” Daniel walked off stage. The band began to play “Don’t You Evah” with an extended introduction as Daniel wrapped on a Band-Aid around a finger. That’s right: frontman Britt Daniel literally cut his fingers on the way.

Songs such as “Don’t Make Me a Target” were energized and powered by Daniel’s guitar solo riddled with pauses that added extra tension. These pauses were just as important as the actual solo, proving that volume is as effective a tool as silence in rock music.

This led to “The Ghost of You Lingers,” which took on a new form entirely when performed live. Usually a dull moment on the album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, it was powered by an unmatched energy that transformed it into a highlight. This is something Spoon does well; the band takes a song that would otherwise be an album slump and generates something original and exciting.

Daniel is a representative of a dying breed of rock stars. With a legitimate nonchalance and carefree attitude, he exerts an aura of understated cool, something that is becoming increasingly rare as bands so often want to appear as everyday people, or hide behind computers on stage. He seems at once entirely likeable, but intimidating enough so as not fully approachable.

The band’s stage presence was untouchable. Guitarist Alex Fischel would play his instrument and walk around like Frankenstein’s monster who’d just stepped off the operating table. Keyboardist Eric Harvey broke a tambourine from beating it; he’d karate-chop the keyboard like it was a wood plank. Songs like “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” or “Don’t You Evah” had interminable lead-ins that were perfect.

The beauty of this night’s lineup was that it canvassed the many different stages of modern music. To start, A Giant Dog, a five-piece punk band, sheepishly walked onto stage. The female lead singer sported pink panties and a tacky Minnesota Vikings sweater that was inevitably going to come off. The music was about as sparkless as the band’s presence. She danced around and sang with auburn bangs in her eyes like an ungroomed dog. She would have conversational exchanges with the audience, such as when  “You guys ever watch The Good Wife?” Some responded with some unenthusiastic “woops,” and she nodded and replied, “Rock ‘n’ roll” before the band burst into another track.

Future Islands lead singer Samuel T. Herring held down the fort with his reptilian stage presence. He feverishly fight-danced the night away while evidently exorcising a few demons out of his soul in the process. He’d scatter around the stage like an insect and crawl on his belly. In the same verse, he’d alternate his voice between Chris Isaak levels of earnestness to guttural, demonic howls. The band provided an energetic and entertaining set, even if it will most likely only be remembered for Herring’s stage act. It’s forced, but the band could perform an entire set of covers and the audience would have the same exact level of enjoyment.

A Giant Dog is the aspiring indie rock band who thinks it can succeed by having an edgy lead singer backed by a punk band. Future Islands was the current buzz band with a need to see it to believe it lead singer who is waiting to be forgotten. Spoon is the group of seasoned veterans who have been rocking since many of us were toddlers. It’s delivered one of the finest live shows of any active band that is worth a thousand of Orson Welles’ standing ovations. It’s eminently exciting to see a band perform during its prime after releasing one of its best albums to date. Sometimes the oldest guys around still can have the freshest sound.


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Craig Wright

Craig Wright

Craig is the senior arts and culture editor for the Emerald. He is from West Linn, Oregon, and is a senior majoring in journalism at the UO. He has made Nick Frost laugh and has been deemed to be "f---ed up in the head" by legendary thrash-metal band Slayer.