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Concert review: Spoon delivers during an intimate night at Brooklyn Bowl

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Spoon played a three-night run at Brooklyn Bowl, June 24-26.
Benjamin Gordon

Four and a half stars

Spoon June 26, Brooklyn Bowl

In hindsight, Spoon scheduling three shows at Brooklyn Bowl isn’t the craziest thing it has done in Las Vegas. In 2001, the Austin, Texas band—at the time just making waves with its new album, Girls Can Tell, its first on indie heavyweight Merge Records—made its local debut at the Railhead at Boulder Station, an improbable gig with a seemingly impossible sponsor: hard rock radio station 92.3 KOMP-FM. A personal headcount didn’t break 100, but Railhead regulars with wrinkled brows nonetheless danced along to the band’s R&B-leaning rock tracks, including “Take the Fifth” and “Everything Hits at Once.”

On June 26, Spoon’s fourth-ever Sin City tour stop coincided with its first on the Strip—its other local gigs included Vegoose in 2005 and the Matador at 21 weekender at the Palms in 2010—and when Britt Daniel and company performed “Everything,” it was hard not to think of that song’s first Vegas airing, in a venue only slightly less intimate than how Brooklyn Bowl felt that Thursday night, as well as how far the band had come in 13 years. In 2010, review-compiling website Metacritic declared Spoon the best overall artist of the decade, the band’s four 2001-2007 releases scoring the highest review averages of any other artist. Hail to the chief, Radiohead.

But in rock 'n' roll, that means nuffin (to borrow Spoon’s spelling preferences) if your live show isn’t as consistently pleasing. The quintet—with White Rabbits’ Stephen Patterson subbing in for a temporarily absent Rob Pope and Daniel’s Divine Fits bandmate Alex Fischel on keyboards and guitars—has gotten better with each Vegas performance, and Thursday’s gig would seem hard to top. Simultaneously celebratory and tense, with swingin’ rhythms, sharp riffs and evocative synth touches, Spoon sounded like a small army with rationed artillery leveling a large battlefield, resoundingly victorious even with Brooklyn Bowl only one-third full.

It didn’t hurt that the quintet essentially played its version of a greatest-hits set. But if the three tracks it showcased from its new album, They Want My Soul (out August 5), are any indication, Spoon will have another critical triumph in its discography. Single “Rent I Pay” mirrored the swagger of the Stones tune to which the band initially walked onstage, its hypnotizing three-note guitar phrases piggybacking on drummer Jim Eno’s workmanlike charge. The latter’s more spacious beat, along with Daniel’s chunky rhythm guitar, set the stage for Fischer’s cantankerous flourishes during the tempestuous “Knock Knock Knock.” And Daniel offered his own furious axework during the best of the three, “Rainy Taxi,” allowing Fischel to serve on chaos detail and bang on the keys like a toddler who’s finally scaled the piano bench.

Between the latter two songs, Spoon indulged the crowd a six-chestnut run highlighted by “Small Stakes,” an indie-minimalism classic that accelerated into a glorious climax, and “The Beast and the Dragon, Adored,” which might be the most rousing song you ever heard at 60 beats per minute. Later, “My Mathematical Mind” let Patterson shine, his stomp-provoking groove playing Pied Piper to the guitars, keyboards and vocals, all converging into a purposeful racket.

As focused as the musicians seemed, they were visibly enjoying themselves. During “Got Nuffin,” Daniel was grinning ear to ear, even before Fischel got so lost in his own six-stringed histrionics that he nearly fell over. The singer, hardly known for his onstage chattiness, even bantered with the crowd. He was quizzically impressed to hear a shouted request for 1998’s rarely played “Metal Detektor,” and obliged the diehard fan with the song’s performance in the encore. During the following song, “Rhythm & Soul,” Daniel saw someone hoist a cigarette lighter and offered his approval. “Bring those back!” the traditionalist shouted, beckoning more to click their own Bics.

And when it looked like Spoon might close with its beloved Motown homage, “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”—its version Thursday night so robust, it shook the remaining balloons from the preceding night’s Girl Talk set—Daniel said, “We’re supposed to get outta here, but I wanna play one more song—whaddya want to hear?” and honored one female fan’s request for the Elvis Costello-channeling “Jonathon Fisk.”

“Let’s hang out after—we’ve got nowhere to go for three days!” said Daniel before he and his bandmates left the stage. Judging by the chatter from exiting fans making plans to return Friday and/or Saturday, maybe the three-night stand wasn’t such a ridiculous idea.

Setlist:

"Knock Knock Knock"

"Rent I Pay"

"Don’t You Evah"

"Small Stakes"

"Who Makes Your Money"

"Don’t Make Me a Target"

"The Ghost of You Lingers"

"The Beast and the Dragon, Adored"

"Everything Hits at Once"

"Rainy Taxi"

"The Underdog"

"My Mathematical Mind"

"I Summon You"

"Trouble Comes Running"

"I Turn My Camera On"

"Got Nuthin"

"Black Like Me"

Encore:

"Metal Detector"

"Rhythm & Soul"

"You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb"

"Jonathan Fisk"

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