buttonSpoon @ Daikanyama Unit (6th Feb. '08)

That's The Way We Get By

      They had us packed in like cutlery in a kitchen drawer at the Spoon show on Wednesday night at Daikanyama Unit. As people piled in from the sleet and cold outside, they were stopped in their wet tracks at the back of the venue due to the traffic jam of people there to hear the Austin, Texas band showcase tunes from one of the best albums of 2007.

      While Spoon had been around for ten years, they have merely flirted with commercial success until last year's release of GA GA GA GA GA on Merge Records. And it's not surprising, since GA GA GA GA GA is a portrait of a band at the peak of their abilities. The ten song disc is all hopping rhythm-and-soul filled with punchy guitar, staccato keyboard riffs, bouncing bass, heavy percussion and deft playful songwriting. It picks up and improves on where previous Merge records KILL THE MOONLIGHT (2002) and GIMME FICTION (2005) left off.

      Along for the ride to Japan was Boston pop outfit Via Audio, whose debut release, SAY ANYTHING (on SideCho Records), was produced and recorded by Spoon drummer and co-founder Jim Eno at his Austin home studio. The four-piece group was affable and endearing, and generated considerable interest from the crowd as they vamped through their blend of quirky pop. It was hard for this writer to get a decent view of the band though, as I was stuck way at the back, pushed against the bar (albeit a minor saving grace) by the bottleneck of people blocked from gaining any forward ground by the ridiculous posts near the bar.

      I did manage to squeeze up through the crowed in time for singer Jessica Martins to giddily invite one and all to the Apple store in Shibuya the next day for their in-store performance. I'm sure that more than a few people in attendance took her up on the offer.

      After Via Audio finished their set, it was easier to get a little closer to the stage before Spoon started, so we snuck up as close as we could to stage left, but the high raised stage still made it seem as if we were a million miles from the action. When Spoon finally did take the stage, singer-songwriter-guitar player Britt Daniels wasted no time with introductions, electing simply to kick off the show with the fitting, though obvious, "Japanese Cigarette Case" - an easy call to action for the assembled Tokyo-ites. From there it was a non-stop showcase of the songs from the no-filler GA GA GA GA GA, with a few added gems from prior albums included.

      Though they seemed to be irritated by some minor technical difficulties at the beginning, they worked their way through them without missing many beats. They bounced into the jumpy, bass line driven "Don't You Evah" for song two and started to find their groove after a bit more equipment and arrangement tweaking. The crowd pushed toward the front of the stage, hopping up and down to the tunes and also to get a view of Daniels since he bent over almost double when banging away on his Gibson hollow body electric. One moment he was standing on his tip toes, delivering his raspy vocals into the mic; and the next moment he would disappear from view, in a deep rock star bow, punching out the staccato chord progressions that are part of the band's signature sound. Surprisingly dapper for an Austin rock guy, his muted dark suit lent itself well to his semi-theatrical arm waving and guitar-raising. He had the air of a mussed up, nerdy AV club member who had downed his first ever beers, threw off his tortoiseshell glasses and discovered rocking out. (Indeed, the constant fiddling with pedals and amps through the show practically screamed AV club - but I digress, and, ahem, offer solidarity...).

      By the time they got to the crowd pleasing "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb", though, they were well and truly into their groove - and so was the crowd. With all the kinks ironed out, there was nothing left to do but rock. The keyboards kept up their minimalist percussive pounding courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Eric Harvey, and all around the stage the crowd couldn't help but shuffle along to the rhythms Spoon dished out. Perhaps the fact that Unit is a dance club added to the overly bass heavy sound coming from the monitors, but for this particular live show that was a good thing. A very good thing, actually, for the sound of Rob Pope's bass and Eno's kick drum knitted the whole sound together.

      Really, the sound in the venue was like a bad wine review: clear and well balanced, combining rounded bass notes that punch through the center, with an insistent percussive body topped with overtones of Fender Rhodes and Telecaster to create a warm mellow flavor. That is, until the sound guy cranked the reverb slider to eleven on Daniels' vocals at the end of every other lyric - proving that no matter how careful you are, even the best wines can be corked.

      Front man Daniels isn't one for a lot of between song banter, choosing instead to clutch his Gibson for dear life like some Harajuku brand slave not wanting to let go of her Louis Vuitton bag. His energetic, gravelly rasp never delved into Tom Waits territory, and is one the most inviting elements of Spoon's sound outside of the music itself. Imagine Phil Lynot of Thin Lizzy singing an up-tempo Cracker song.

      The design of Unit isn't conducive to seeing live bands, and that was unfortunately evident at this crowded gig. As mentioned above, the crowd at the back by the entrance couldn't see much as the two square posts they have planted between the bar and the stage effectively block most from getting anywhere near the stage, as well as magnificently blocking out the view. The shitty TV screens placed on them hardly make up for it.

      All in all, the show was a great chance for Spoon to showcase the songs from GA GA GA GA GA for fans here in Tokyo enamored with their radio friendly song "The Underdog". They also treated us to lively versions of "That's The Way We Get By" and "Small Stakes" near the end, as well, so fans of their earlier work didn't go away disappointed.

      It was a hard working, energetic performance, and the band appears to be in peak shape - fit enough to play Fuji Rock festival in the summer. These underdogs could easily get the shed that is the Red Marquee jumping with their infectious rhythm and soul, and it provide a great opportunity for them to spoon feed new fans more of their repertoire than a feature album showcase will allow.

report by jeff

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buttonmag files : Spoon

buttonThat's The Way We Get By : (08/02/06 @ Daikanyama Unit) : review by jeff

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check 'em? -->MySpace / iTunes

The latest album


"Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga"
(US import / US import - '12 analog / UK import / iTunes)

previous works

"Sister Jack [Maxi]"(US Import / UK Import / / UK Import- '7 analog)
"I Turn My Camera on [Single]" (UK Import)
"Gimme Fiction" (US Import - Linited Edition / US import - '12 analog / UK import / UK import - '12 analog / iTunes)
"Kill the Moonlight" (US Import / US import - '12 analog / UK import / UK import - '12 analog)
"Way We Get By [Single]" (UK Import)
"Stay Don't Go [Single]" (UK Import)
"Jonathon Fisk [Single]" (UK Import)
"Series of Sneaks" (US Import)
"Car Radio [Single]" (UK Import)
"Anything You Want [Single]" (UK Import)
"Girls Can Tell" (US Import / UK Import)
"Love Ways [EP]" (US Import / UK Import / iTunes)
... and more

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