Is 2014 the year of Spoon? In the band’s twenty-year existence, it just may be. They recently released their first studio album in four years, They Want My Soul, to rave reviews across the board and, as a result of the masses finally catching on to the brilliance that is Spoon, they are now playing bigger venues than ever before. Throughout their career Spoon have been a living example of the term “indie darlings,” and their constant presence on the festival circuit as of late shows they are happy to embrace it.
Here in Austin, Spoon is as much a local treasure as Barton Springs and breakfast tacos, which is why the handful of gigs they played around town this week felt like something of a homecoming. Between back-to-back appearances at the Austin City Limits Festival, Spoon managed to squeeze in two important gigs. On Thursday night they taped an episode of Austin City Limits – their fourth since 2001. The background of the Austin skyline never felt more appropriate than when the members of Spoon emerged in front of it, receiving a hero’s welcome as they waved to the crowd and picked up their instruments. New songs like “Do You” and “Rent I Pay” fit well into a catalogue spanning set that also included older fan favorites like “Way We Get By,” “Don’t You Evah,” and the song that really put them on the map, “Turn My Camera On.” Between Britt Daniel passionately making love to his amp, drummer Jim Eno grabbing a camera and filming the band during “The Ghost of You Lingers,” and newest member Alex Fischel practically working himself into a rock and roll seizure as he attacked jagged guitar solos, Spoon somehow managed to turn an ACL taping into an art form in and of itself. Even when Daniel dropped the mic in the middle of a verse it felt effortlessly cool.
Two days later a sold out crowd gathered under the stars at Stubb’s to catch the local boys for a full headlining set. The setlist varied from the ACL taping, with the band getting to stretch out more and dig a little deeper into their songbook. Fittingly, Spoon kicked off the set with the title track off They Want My Soul and followed up with the Keith Richards-esque guitar hook of “Rent I Pay.” Fan favorite “Small Stakes” had the crowd bouncing along in unison and even without the horn section “Underdog” soared into a realm of pure catchiness. One of the shining moments came during an acoustically strummed, stripped down version of “I Summon You,” which fit surprisingly well alongside tunes like the New Wave-y “New York Kiss” and the ambient, sensual beat of “Inside Out.” Wearing all white and playing below a giant disco ball and in front of shadow-inducing screens, the members of Spoon were quintessentially dapper onstage at Stubb’s. They showed their appreciation for their loyal local fanbase with not one, but two encores, blazing through their most well-known tunes “Don’t Make Me a Target” and the always punchy “I Turn My Camera On” before returning again and closing out with the triple blast of “Outlier,” “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” and “Got Nuffin.”
Britt Daniel and company left the stage as if they had just won an election, thanking an audience that has supported them for twenty years and those that may have only just discovered them. The next day they went on to rock in front of thousands at ACL Fest, and each time the band didn’t disappoint a soul. Their whole run through Austin touched legions of die-hards and plenty of new fans, all of whom now realize that somehow this twenty year band’s sound is more hip than ever. Sometimes taking a brief hiatus pays off, but here’s to hoping Spoon don’t disappear anytime soon.
All photos by Arthur VanRooy with photo of ACL taping by credit Scott Newton.