The last time I’d seen Spoon perform was at an eTown recording. In the onstage interview with Britt Daniel, someone asked him about the influences on what was then their newest album, “Gimme Fiction.” A very polite Britt Daniel replied, “Well, the Beatles. That’s pretty much where it begins and ends.” I remember muttering under my breath, “Well, duh.”
Fast-forward to a Wednesday night at the Ogden. At this sold-out show, there were moments when Daniel’s pitch was so John Lennon perfect, the geometric stage behind them so mod and ’60s, the pot smoke so thick, that one could almost imagine that it was the Beatles down there. A Bizarro Beatles that integrates Wolf Parade covers into their show, but nevertheless, the strong nostalgic pull of that time and place is impossible to ignore in Spoon’s sound and stage presence.
Opener Deerhunter was a little different story. Despite “Strange Lights,” a song that drew its bass line from a ’60s prom band (I mean this in a good way), Deerhunter’s set was decidedly modern, an example of noise wielded with virtuosic control. Bradford Cox’s lovely, often feminine voice was only outshone by bassist Josh Fauver’s insanely animated playing style. Fauver may be the only bassist who has ever inspired me to play air bass, deviating from the standard head-bob “bassist dance” to a guitar-hero workout.
After what seemed like the longest between-song break in Ogden history, the lights dimmed and Spoon, in all their tight jeans and mod-boot glory, appeared onstage. Lit by strings of Christmas lights, Spoon opened with “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb.” Within the first few guitar licks, the noticeably more mature all-ages crowd (who didn’t seem to impressed by Deerhunter) went nuts.
Despite a sound that stays rooted in nostalgia but spends significant time in the post-punk and shoegaze neighborhoods, Spoon is a pretty basic band to watch. Daniel wanders about the stage, Eric Harvey earnestly bangs away at his keyboard, and occasionally Jim Eno will toss a maraca into the audience. My sister noted that you could have spent the show facing the bar, and you wouldn’t have missed much onstage.
But as they skipped from song to song, it became clear that Spoon isn’t a band you go to see. It’s a band you go to hear. The Hammond organ was dead-on, never pitchy, vocals came through loud and (most importantly) clear. They focused on their recognizable songs, not too much on B-sides or new material.
In fact, Spoon’s set was much like the sets I’ve seen of bands that people forget are still touring together (like Styx and REO Speedwagon). They hit the hits, play like the crowd expects them to and give the fans who saw them at Stubb’s at SXSW, Spring Break ’99 a reason to leave the kids with a sitter and have a night out. Perhaps in Bizarro world, this is where the Beatles would have wound up.
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Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and regular Reverb contributor.