Spoon Turns House of Blues Inside Out

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Spoon House of Blues December 30, 2014

Beloved Austin band Spoon's audience is comprised of two different types of individuals: 1) people who love the band; and 2) people that love the band but have no idea who they are. But how can this be?

Spoon is one of many groups that have continued to gain popularity during a time of major change in the music industry. In a previous world where a band's success would lead to massive radio play, arena tours and high record sales, Spoon's success has continued to grow in a post-iTunes world through different avenues. Their music (not unlike other indie bands) has been featured in commercials and soundtracks for many movies and television shows.

Not to mention, Spoon manages to pop up in the algorithm of just about every male-led rock band on any given streaming site; seriously, try typing in the National, Interpol, Phoenix, or even Tom Petty, and Spoon is going to make multiple cameos. Their sound has slipped into the public's musical lexicon without any notice -- unless we are speaking of active fans. Tuesday night's House of Blues show was full of true Spoon fans who love and follow the group, as well as people that were not even aware that they had been fans for years.

Spoon's musical digest spans 20-plus years of work, so concocting a set that honors original fans while achieving the purpose of touring (generally to promote a new album) could be a challenge. Tuesday, the band succeeded by focusing on their work of the last 12 years, showcasing favorites dating back to 2002's Kill the Moonlight -- "Small Stakes" as well as arguably their best known song "The Way We Get By" -- while managing to play six new songs off their newest effort, They Want My Soul. Opening with new songs "Rent I Pay" and "Rainy Taxi" and following up with audience favorite "Don't You Evah," the show was heavy with songs from 2005's Gimme Fiction and 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

Spoon's sound has managed to accomplish something extremely difficult. The band is undeniably retro in their influences, but in no way seems like throwback kitsch. They are able to combine a kind of London-cool 1960s vibe with the 1990s "alternative" sound, wrap it up in an Austin bow, and create contemporary music. Unlike other groups who have attempted to create out of reference and end up sounding like unoriginal copycats, Spoon does not impersonate moments in pop history, but rather creates newness from them.

Much of this comes from the band's undeniable talent. A lot has been written over the years of the abilities of lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, and with good reason. Daniel knows how to engage an audience with energy without seeming like a gimmick. Eno is like a one-man sound machine. There is clear intent in their music, which is tight without sounding overly rehearsed.

The real highlight of Tuesday's show was newest member and keyboardist Alex Fischel, though. Combining raw talent with frenetic energy, His sometimes haunting and forceful keys sounded like the love child of Morticia Addams and the late, great Ray Manzarek. "They Want My Soul," "They Never Got You," and "Don't Make Me a Target," all played back-to-back, were particularly excellent.

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Even with a bizarre PA malfunction that disrupted "The Way We Get By" and "Black Like Me," Spoon's 17-song regular set was fantastic. The band returned for not one but two encores, ending the evening with "The Underdog." The quintessential example of how Spoon's success has continued to grow over the years, "Underdog" found the diehard-fan half of the audience singing every word, while the other half realized that they have known this song for years and never knew who or what it was. In short, everyone at House of Blues Tuesday loved Spoon, whether they knew it or not.

So, How Was the Opener? Fellow Austin band I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness opened the evening with less than a bang. There was nothing wrong with their performance in any way, but there was also nothing about it that particularly stood out. Generic indie-rock, this music could be the backdrop for any occasion, and that is its biggest problem. When does one choose to listen to this music? ILYBICD are fine musicians but lack a needed ingenuity to remove them from indie monotony.

Personal Bias: While Spoon's recordings are definitely good, their live performance only elevates a fan's love of their music.

The Crowd: By a country mile, this was the most hipster-laden audience I've ever witnessed at any show in Houston. Flannel, handlebar mustaches, felt-and-feather men's hats, Aztec-printed knits...these cold Texas hipsters certainly bundled up with panache.

Overseen In the Crowd: I love seeing much older couples at shows together. Nothing is more heartwarming on a chilly Houston evening than seeing two people who have managed to navigate through life together and maintain a love of live music.

Random Notebook Dump: The music between sets was mind-bogglingly random, and did not go unnoticed. Between two Austin indie-rock bands, a few treats overheard were "Let Me Blow Your Mind" by Eve and Gwen Stefani, the Gene Vincent classic "Be Bop a Lula," Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue," and the ridiculous Toni Braxton nugget "You're Makin' Me High." It was like listening to someone's iPod...someone with whom I would like to be friends.

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