Perth Festival Opening Night Spoon: Review 12/02/2015
Praise to Spoon – Britt Daniel, Jim Eno and Co.'s band of avant-indie rockers who, on their fifth visit to WA opened the Perth Festival last night at a sold-out Chevron Festival Gardens. Sold-out, but feeling sparse, the Festival Gardens is either an aesthetically pleasing open air venue that gives you space to enjoy a gig in relative comfort or, depending on your perspective, a pale comparison to the sweatier more visceral venues that seem to have been closing around the city over the last few years. Regardless, popping up for a few weeks every year the Gardens is the host of many of the most exciting and diverse acts to grace the state from around the world – along with Spoon, we're gonna see a range from Senagalese blues guitarist Bombino to Indie legends J. Mascis and Steve Malkmus, to Harmonica supremo Charlie Musselwhite to lithe RnB star and DJ Mustard collaborator Tinashe, among others.
Before Spoon hit the stage the mulling Perth crowd was greeted with the war cry “Perth, are you angry?” Apparently not. The crowd remained mild throughout, dulling some of the energy from the atmosphere created by sharp, lively and technically brilliant performances. No knock on the artists: workhorses, and aesthetes who excelled in bringing the most specific studio tricks into action in the live setting (most notably the complex rounds and double-tracking of the haunting 'The Ghost of You Lingers' from 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga), but the tame response to most of the set, particularly a slew of tracks from 2014's They Want My Soul (excepting the stomping opener 'Rent I Pay') sapped some of the kinetic and emotional energy from the scene.
Nevertheless, Britt Daniels and the band, consistent as clockwork, tore through a long set with both faithfulness and invention. 'My Mathematical Mind', from Gimme Fiction, was the night's best jam, its Brubeck-esque keyboard riff elevated to the centre of attention. Along with Britt Daniel's obvious role as the charismatic and stoic frontman, keys player Alex Fischel (only with Spoon since 2013) was the other standout in one of indie rock's tightest units, with the cascading touch of 'Inside Out' his biggest showcase. Long-time greatest hits contenders 'Don't Make Me a Target' and 'The Way We Get By' meanwhile ensured a sharp spike in the volume from both sides of the stage.
While the (deserved) encore seemed to come as much from expectation as anything, it may have been when the Perth crowd truly came to life. Under the shading of blue lights from the Festival stage Daniel guided his patrons through a mini-set that included Girls Can Tell's 'Everything Hits at Once', a raucous cover of Eddy Current Suppression Ring's 'Memory Lane (erroneously referred to by Daniel, I think, as a Perth band) and 2007 hit 'The Underdog', in which the indie kid's dancing fever of jerky shoulder thrusts and side-steps spread virally through the audience, the whole show peaking, Poe-style, at the climax.
On their fifth visit to Perth, with a growing discography and a consistency unmatched by almost all of their contemporaries, it's easy to see why Daniels feels that after all these years Spoon are “doing something right”. By any measure a full house is a hell of a way to open the Perth International Arts Festival program for 2015, with much, much more to come.