Spoon Brings 'Soul' to Brooklyn: Concert Review

Courtesy of Matthew Allen
The less-famous-than-they-should-be Austin group's latest album takes center stage at the recently reopened Kings Theater.

Britt Daniel was happy to have some walls around him. At the end of Spoon's show at Brooklyn's recently reopened Kings Theater, whose cavernous opulence might intimidate a lesser indie band, the singer obliquely acknowledged the set's strength by apologizing for their last one in New York: At Central Park's outdoor SummerStage in September, he admitted, "it wasn't loud enough."

While Tuesday's show never forced fans to reach for their earplugs, it certainly felt loud — big and rockstar-like to a greater extent than usual for the acclaimed but less-famous-than-they-should-be Austin group. It was a victory lap, nearly a year after the release of They Want My Soul, a record so good it forced many listeners to act like their previous one had been a death knell; and it benefited from the time during which both fans and Spoon have settled into the new songs, with numbers like the show-opener "Rent I Pay" generating as much enthusiasm as crowd favorites like "The Way We Get By."

On a stage furnished sparsely with just a handful of giant white scrims, the five black-clad bandmates cast big silhouettes when lit from the bottom up. Though the backdrop is one they've used for months, the lights occasionally seemed site-specific, as when, on "Knock Knock Knock," three purple searchlights explored elaborate decorations on the ceiling of the former movie palace. Deep colors and the occasional flashing effect were the only visuals, a surprise given how well Mau Morgo and Todd Baxter's eerie, morphing "Inside Out" video would have worked as a backdrop.

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"Inside Out" was one of a half-dozen Soul tunes on the set list. Other new standouts were "Do You," a heartfelt come-on whose weightless "do-do, do-do" backing vocals evoked the Rolling Stones' "Miss You." At the other end of the romantic spectrum were the ultimatums of "Rainy Taxi," a highlight that bristled with propulsive energy.

The post-Soul new song "Satellite" was the gentlest thing in the hour-and-45-minute set, an "I love you more" ballad that took its time before rocking out. The group followed that with a dense arrangement of "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" whose opacity served as a hard division between the set's first and second halves. Several other older tunes were heavier here than they are on the record without sacrificing dynamic changes: "Small Stakes," which on Kill the Moonlight teasingly fades away with us wanting more, was roundly satisfying; Eric Harvey's simple keyboard pattern repeated so insistently the crowd received it like a heroic guitar solo. The churn of "The Fitted Shirt" was massive, Led Zep-worthy and so muscular it belied the lyrics' yearning for old fashioned skinny-guy dress shirts.

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While Daniel is never going to become the kind of entertainer who works a crowd with between-song patter (he did little more than say "thank you"), he's more dramatically flexible than most rockers in his singing and phrasing. Here he began "Small Stakes" in a conspiratorial whisper; snarled through a bit of "The Way We Get By" before a showy mike-drop; and sounded genuinely angry on "Don't Make Me a Target." His advice regarding planning for the apocalypse in "My Mathematical Mind" was freshly syncopated, pulling against the steady beat of drummer and band co-founder Jim Eno.

Both original bandmates loosened up for a cover of the Cramps' "TV Set," which sounded just like a Spoon-Cramps mashup should: like a reverb-drunk rockabilly satellite careening through space and starting to come apart in Earth's atmosphere. That was in the first of two encores, which went so well the singer finally had to make that sideways admission that Spoon had given us our money's worth. The four years between Transference and They Want My Soul is the longest fans have ever had to wait for a new Spoon album; Tuesday night, the band sounded too confident to drag their feet making the next one.

Set list:

Rent I Pay
Knock Knock Knock
Don't You Evah
The Way We Get By
Small Stakes
My Mathematical Mind
The Ghost of You Lingers
The Beast and Dragon, Adored
I Turn My Camera On
Do You
The Fitted Shirt
I Summon You
Rainy Taxi
Inside Out
Don't Make Me a Target
Got Nuffin


Anything You Want
TV Set (Cramps cover)

Encore 2:

Black Like Me
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
The Underdog