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Spoon AT Radio City Music Hall, March 26th, 2010: Average White Bland by Iman Lababedi

Everything about Spoon is musical average. Neither good nor bad, it is right down the middle. After seventeens years of hard work they are about as in the middle of the pop music world as you can imagine(their latest album entered the charts at # 4, shoulda been #5) and during an intensely average show at Radio City Music Hall, the only surprise was that they didn’t come on stage till 1015pm.
First we sat through Atlanta, GA’s  Deerhunter’s interminable 45 minute opening slot. That sounds meaner than I actually feel. I liked their 2009  Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP though not at the time, recently, when I listened to it in preparation for this set. They’ve been around since 2001 and the set is drone rock indie pop drifting into sonic zoom. Two guitars, bass and a mix deck. One moment (one song) drifts into the other with the melodic intensity here and gone. I liked listening to Deerhunter, but they don’t have  stage presense and Radio City seemed much to large for em.  I think I’d like em a lot more if I was on ‘shrooms and not physically exhausted.
Yup, wiped out. Three concerts in three nights might not sound like much but I’m fifty-three and going to sleep at 1am, waking at 5am and posting for two hours, working all day and posting through lunch and doing it again and again has wiped me out.
Perhaps that effected my indifference to Spoon’s set but maybe not. I didn’t much like their breakthough hit 2007s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, “The Underdog” was pretty good but everything else had me shrugging my shoulders. Didn’t dislike but it is, much like the pale skinned, blonded hair, tousled haired everyman Spoon Britt Daniel -even his name disappears from your memory banks as you hear it, it is distant and barely visible and imminently forgetable. Do you know the Bright Eyes/Britt Daniel collab EP, 2002’s  Home, Vol. 4.? I swear I completely forgot Britt was on it.
This years Transference is an excellent album. A rock roots, as in a straight, unadorned, alt rock sound, album with one great song after another and pretty much why I’m here. Also at $40 bucks for a great seat, the price was generous and correct.  Last night, “The Mystery Zone” -great on the album, is pretty good with just acoustic guitar and keyboards. Pretty good? Nothing is terrible, not even the Damned cover, nothing is great. The audience sits on their hands for the hour I watched (I left early, sensing I had nothing much to miss. Early being 1115pm -any normal Radio City show would be over long before that). They liked em -but didn’t love em. I was in 1st mezz and nobody was standing and the lines to get a drink were huge IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SET. I liked em but not a lot.
I realize it is gnomish to dismiss Spoon. They deserve everything they have. They worked hard for it. But, if the best Britt can offer an audience after 17 years is “Hello, New York City” during the entire hour I was there, he is not interacting as much as he might, he is not drawing any one in. Sure music is about music, but a live set is about a communal experience.
The sound was great, the band were fine, the songs were okay, “Got Nuffin'” even cuts the recorded version , but the lighting was obvious, the decor ho hum (and it’s a big place, why no close circuit video cameras so we can actually see em?).
After a hugely disappointing Dirty Projectors set last year it took me months to hear em again without sneering (it took last week’s Dylan cover). It may take longer with Spoon – a hard working alt rock band with one great album, a clutch of other good songs and all the d’esprit de corps of mashed potatoes: bland, but good for you.

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