Spoon frontman, Britt Daniel, leads Spoon through an engaging and groovy set.Miles Ricketts: Varsity

Not long into Spoon’s set at the Junction, frontman Britt Daniel addresses the Cambridge crowd with an admission that he and his bandmates have enjoyed spending the previous two days before the gig exploring the city. The prospect of sitting next to five intense rock musicians from Austin at a King’s College Chapel Evensong or perhaps encountering them waiting impatiently for the self-service checkouts in Sainsbury’s is tantalising. However, it is thoroughly unlikely that anybody in the city would recognise them passing by.

Despite the success of their oeuvre, which has developed from a spare, direct garage assault to a polished, poppier yet experimental sound, Spoon are one of the few US indie/alternative rock bands that remain largely unknown in the UK relative to their admiration across the pond. The ability to play even the Kentish Town Forum as part of their UK tour earlier in the year when Hot Thoughts, the album this cycle is promoting, reached a mere 76 in the UK Album Chart suggests a cultish following. Yet, for a cult, the average Spoon crowd is not the most visibly devoted. Very few people in attendance know the words, while those standing reach peak noticeable enjoyment levels with a fervent nodding, their gaze totally fixed on the band – and this is exactly the way it should be.

The impetus to come and watch Spoon is to marvel at one of the tightest live performers currently touring. Since expanding to a five-piece in 2013, the band have produced a remarkably rich synthesis of electronic-based grooves and angular guitar diversions that has managed to resurrect and redefine much of their back catalogue under a central ‘Spoon’ umbrella.

The most notable result of this growth is the addition of multi-instrumentalist Alex Fischel, who swings wildly from periods of insular sound-scaping on a mountain of keyboards to fits of guitar histrionics. Fischel is the first member we witness on stage, planted prominently at the front, playing seemingly random sequences of piano riffs that slowly start to resemble the intro to ‘Do I Have To Talk You Into It’ from this year’s Hot Thoughts. When the rest of the band emerge rather ungracefully from behind a thick curtain, thus begins 90 minutes of exhilaratingly loud and vibrant art rock.

"Performing at a venue likely smaller than they’re used to, Spoon seem to relish playing with each other"

Performing at a venue likely smaller than they’re used to, Spoon seem to relish playing with each other. ‘I Turn My Camera On’ represents Spoon’s own brand of the guitar duel, with Daniel and Fischel absorbed in trading increasingly syncopated sharp riffs over a funky bassline, almost like a disco television. As well as possessing an electrifying instrumental energy, there are softer moments where Daniel takes a stroll with the microphone, most effectively crooning over the hypnotically melodic ‘Inside Out’.

Unfortunately, there are slight moments of indulgence. An extensive solo Fischel synthesiser intro to ‘I Ain’t the One’ followed by a botched attempt at minimalist new album cut ‘Pink Up’ are slightly trying. While the graciousness of admitting they’d mangled the latter was admirable, watching five men attempt to synchronise their tambourine-rattling was a bit Blue Man Group-goes-Spinal Tap. But these instances only stand out in the light of the startling quality of the rest of the night’s show.


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As the set draws to a close, we are treated to the mighty discordant swells of ‘My Mathematical Mind’ and a taut, punchy rendition of Spoon’s perhaps lone ‘hit’, ‘The Underdog’. The lack of material from the recently-reissued Ga Ga Ga Ga is slightly jarring, especially given the quality of that record, but the imperfect harmony of harsh descending motifs and near-anthemic choruses of ‘Don’t Make Me A Target’ more than make up for this.

After hitting the last chord of encore ‘Rent I Pay’, Daniel, an impressive figure of a suave rock star, places his guitar gently on the ground, feedback ringing. Spoon then proceed to disappear, ducking precariously once again under a curtain, leaving behind a rapturous audience immensely satisfied with the evening’s dynamic display

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