Spoon: Untouchable For Life


Spoon played at George Washington University's annual spring concert on Saturday. It was a students-only affair but there was no way I was going to miss it. So I put my mad Photoshop skills to work, made myself a fake student ID, got it all laminated, even shaved to try to look a bit younger. And it worked, I totally got in! Of course, it seemed like just anybody could just walk right in, so it was a lot of work for nothing. But no matter, I got to see the show, which was the important thing.

The set was infinitely better than the last time I saw Spoon play an outdoors, afternoon show. The band played six new songs, which I'll describe in more detail after the jump, but here's the best compliment I can give them, or any other songs, for that matter -- they sound like Spoon songs. Immaculately constructed, unparalleled sense of dynamics, expert use of empty space. Spoon may not be the most thrilling band around but you can't convince me that anyone is writing better songs these days than Britt Daniel. "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" was a classic and based on what I heard on Saturday, the follow-up could very well be on the same level.

When you see a Spoon show you know you're going to get 20 or so perfect little songs and Saturday was no exception. You can complain about what you didn't hear, but that's simply the sign of a good band. I'd always rather hear something from "Series of Sneaks" than "Girls Can Tell," but that's nitpicking. I walked out of Saturday's show more convinced than ever that Spoon is the best band going.

Full set list with comments and my best guesses at working titles of the new songs, after the jump.

Anything You Want
NEW SONG - "In Reverse"
This one was kind of epic and a little jammy. Spoon jams are different -- and better -- than other bands' jams. There's no noodling and no droning. It's always taut, rhythmic and focused.
NEW SONG - "Running Again"
Much more power pop, this one reminded me of "Jonathon Fisk" from "Gimme Fiction" "Kill the Moonlight" with its constant forward momentum. It had the co-eds clapping their hands, so that's always a good sign.
Don't You Evah
The Ghost of You Lingers -- This would probably get the most votes for Least Favorite Song on "Ga Ga" and I'd probably be among those with that vote, but it's really a beast of a live song. It's not as skeletal, even more spooky. In my notes I wrote, "Like the best Phil Collins song ever." Which still seems like an insult, but it's not meant to be.
Rhthm & Soul
NEW SONG - "Forever"
The band utilized a three-guitar attack for this one. The main riff was kind of stilted, in that classic Spoon way, reminded me of the first chords to "Utilitarian." Daniel's raspy scream sounded especially potent on this one.
The Beast and Dragon Adored -- Another great example of a Daniel "solo" at the end of this one, where he just attacks the same chord with varying ferocity for half a minute.
Me and the Bean
Black Like Me -- It's between this, "Car Radio" and "Loss Leaders" for the title of Best Spoon Song. I've used the comparison to "A Day in the Life" before, but I still think it's a perfect fit.
Peace Like a River (Paul Simon Cover)
I Turn My Camera On -- So slinky, so loose, but still extremely tight. Definitely one of the sassiest songs in the band's catalogue, pulled off with aplomb under the sun on Saturday.
NEW SONG - "Nothing to Lose"
This one sounded like a 1996 Spoon song played by the 2009 version of the band. Translation -- driven by a bass line with no guitar during the verse, the chorus blends seamlessly into the verse. There were a couple moments when you thought it would take off into something big and brash (like "Telephono" songs "Nefarious" or "The Government Darling") but instead the band held back, never giving that big release.
Stay Don't Go
I Summon You
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb -- I'm a sucker for a song that has only the slightest distinction between the verse and chorus and this is a perfect example. When Spoon last played 9:30 club a few years ago they had a horn section in tow, but the keyboard effect worked just fine this time.
Don't Make Me a Target
NEW SONG - "Mystery Zone"
Apparently this was the first performance of this song. It was pretty ominous and weird -- there was some goofy '80s vibe, lots of echo effect on the guitar, a groovy bass line, Daniel repeated "Mystery Zone" a whole lot. It definitely sounded like a first public performance, but this one has the potential to sound especially great.
The Underdog
NEW SONG - "I Saw the Light"
No keyboard on this one, two guitars. Descending bass line with some sharp blasts of guitar and probably the catchiest chorus of any of the new songs. It's almost two songs in one, the outro had drummer Jim Eno playing a motorik beat while Daniel did his version of a solo, which is just basically noise manipulation off a single chord. Much better than most solos.
That's The Way We Get By -- Pretty hilarious intro to this one. Daniel (roughly paraphrased): "So, we just flew in from New Orleans. And what's something you can't take on planes? Right. So we'll be hanging out later, and, well, that's sort of what this song is about." (First line of the song: "We get high in backseats of cars...")

By David Malitz |  April 27, 2009; 3:07 PM ET Live Last Night , Set Lists
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this excites me! wish i had been able to make it to lancaster for last night's show w/ the white rabbits. i can't wait for the new album, next tour!

Posted by: hre1979 | April 27, 2009 4:26 PM

"Jonathan Fisk" is off of Kill the Moonlight. Minor nitpick, great review.

Posted by: universaltravaler | April 28, 2009 12:16 AM

I remember getting into a Superdrag show at AU many years ago. Thanks private universities!

Also Spoon could probably do a killer Don't Look Back for a number of different albums. Maybe Girls Can Tell and then a big chunk of A Series of Sneaks for the encore.

Posted by: M__N | April 28, 2009 8:52 AM

I can't believe you made a fake ID to get in. We just showed up, parked in the visitor's lot and walked in. No one even ever asked us for ID.

As for the new song titles, having seen the set list, I can tell you that they are (in order) Written in Reverse, Trouble (I think - not 100% sure if I remember seeing that on the set list), Is Love, Got Nuffin, Mystery Zone and I Saw the Light. I, too, am *loving* the new stuff. They've been playing the first two since last summer at least, and they've gotten so much better. Got Nuffin was my fave new track. And I, too, think The Ghost of You Lingers is 100 times better live than recorded.

It was a great show, although I got the feeling that the band wanted to leave mid-set because it was so f-ing hot with the sun beating down on them.

Posted by: N_V2 | April 28, 2009 1:34 PM

I am appalled that an employee/reporter of an otherwise reputable newspaper, The Washington Post, would engage in forgery and deception to gain admission to this event. I am sure that GW's media relations people would have given you a press pass to it had you asked them.

Instead, you chose to engage in fraud and deception to sneak your way in to this event, which you acknowledge was intended as a "students only" affair.

I really have no interest in this kind of music, but I am interested in ethical journalism and exemplary conduct by employees of one of the most highly-regarded newspapers in the world. I am astonished that your superiors and editors at The Post have not fired you for your egregious and inappropriate actions.

Forgery, lying, and deception only cheapen the quality of reporting at The Washington Post and diminish the reputation of your colleagues there. I am truly dismayed.

Andrew Karp
GWU Alumnus
Sonoma, CA

Posted by: sfbay0001 | April 28, 2009 4:49 PM

Yeah, I didn't really sneak in. I thought that "mad Photoshop skills" and "totally got in!" made it pretty clear I was joking. Anyway, rest assured I was on all the proper lists, no need to get all riled up there.

Posted by: PostRockDavid | April 28, 2009 5:37 PM

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