Spoon – Baltimore – Sonar, MD – 2007-04-21

Where: Baltimore – Sonar, MD.

When: 2007-04-21

Even though it was a sold out show it was still surprising that the line stretched around the block shortly after the doors were set to open. Baltimore is a town notorious for hipsters late to arrive but apparently the kids here love their Spoon. Also surprising was the sea of bare female legs showing from under torn denim skirts. Either I’m getting older or this indie rock thing is really beginning to catch on with the youth these days. Either way it was enough to make me feel like a real pervert; someone who had no place amongst among the prep school kids. One fellow in particular, who I named Gigantor, was standing directly to my right once inside, blocking the view for the entire show. He seemed to grow as the night wore on. This is the unfortunate byproduct of a 9 o’clock starting date on a Saturday night I suppose.

One cannot go to a show in Baltimore for very long without eventually seeing local favorites The Oranges Band whether you want to or not. Each time I’ve seen them perform the line up has been different with only singer/guitarist Roman Kuebler and drummer Dave Voyles as the constant members. This time they were in a more stripped down performance with new bassist Pat Martin in tow and a utility player on back up vocals and occasional guitar. In time the songs have started to grow on me; they’re a cross between mid period Spoon and the punkier elements of Guided By Voices. (Keubler served as bassist for Spoon on Kill The Moonlight and GbV chose them to open local shows on their farewell tour.) Unfortunately there is always something I find irritating about them. The utility player was a distraction and didn’t have much of a purpose with the exception of coming out from behind the shadows to croon some backing vocals for only 2 minutes of 2 songs where he strapped on a guitar (that was more suited for Ace Frehley than The Oranges Band,) looking nervous all the while. Kuebler has done more than anyone for the music scene in Baltimore but when it comes to his own band, little stands out to set them apart from the pack on a national level. The crowd was quite large when they started but either wasn’t sold on them or was far too eager for the headliners.

When Seth Meyers, er, Britt Daniel and band finally took the stage the already vociferous crowd went into overdrive. Opening with a new song from the upcoming Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, wasn’t necessarily the bold move one would think as the audience was already right where the band wanted them. Daniel thanked everyone for coming out and stated they had never sold out Baltimore before. “Liar!!!” I thought to myself. In one of the great concert disappointments of my life (I didn‘t say it was a very exciting life), I was turned away at the door of a Spoon/Crooked Fingers show on the Moonlight tour as it had in fact, sold out. I held no grudge as the evenings set was heavily peppered with songs from that album as well as the most recent Gimme Fiction.

It has always been a bit of a mystery to as to how Spoon can pull off their songs in a live setting. Like Wilco they use the studio as an instrument and accentuate their songs with keyboard noodling or extra ambient noises. Guitars somehow seem singular yet layered and everywhere all at once. With only 4 men on stage I still have no idea how it’s done but they pull it off with great effect. The performances were fairly by the book, which as a songwriter Daniel is not, so it never became staid. “I Turn My Camera On” was a sexy as ever and “Jonathan Fisk” featured and extended guitar freak out. “Paper Tiger” took on a new feel with Jim Eno pounding the drums in rhythm with the keyboard. Not necessarily a new arrangement but a more impressive version than on the album. Fan favorites were in abundance from “Fitted Shirt” to “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” (Gigantor really loved that one. Needless to say I didn’t see much of it) but nothing any farther back than Girls Can Tell.

Where the highlights were plentiful the low lights were no lights. Stage lighting proved problematic the entire evening for the main act with a spot light on Daniel for at least the first half dozen songs, blinding him and Eno. My thinking was that either he had begun to believe his hype or he suffered from stage fright and chose not to see the audience. Turns out neither was the case as they asked the lighting to be changed several times with limited results. At times the stage went dark all but the band took it all in good stride. Daniel even joked “You don’t need lights for rock n’ roll.” Indeed.

Only several new songs made it into the set but each was just as good as what you’d expect. No names were given to any of them and in fact it seemed almost as though the band tried to downplay they had something new coming out. It was only addressed during the first song of the encore in which Daniel, performing a new track solo, made reference to spending last year working on a new album.

Ridiculous name aside, if Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and their live performances don’t push Spoon to the next level it would a great disappointment. But judging from the size of the crowd, and their age, it’s a good chance their expendable income will help it to happen.