Massey Hall’s stage lights stubbornly refused to illuminate Spoon’s first song of their show “Do I Have to Talk You Into It.” Frontman Britt Daniel asked for some light in earnest, not sure if he had to talk to the lighting techs into it. Fortunately, the audience obliged with hundreds of cellphone flashlights brightening the stage before a well-timed rocker’s point brought the stage lights back to life. It was a memorable start to a solid modern rock concert.
Spoon was in Toronto supporting Hot Thoughts, their ninth studio album, but this show ran the gamut on Spoon’s illustrious 20+ year career. After bringing Massey Hall to life – and to light – Spoon dove right into “Inside Out,” one of their biggest hits from their previous album They Want My Soul. It was clear immediately that Spoon was here to turn out a lively performance, with all four members (plus multi-instrumentalist Gerardo Larios, joining Spoon on tours) bringing a fiery and energetic performance. Each musician on stage came to Massey Hall to exhibit their love for their music, and it showed.
“Inside Out” melded into an extended introduction to “I Turn My Camera On,” one of their best-known early songs thanks to repeated use in TV shows in the mid-2000s. This track comes from Gimme Fiction, the album that first brought me into Spoon’s indie rock glow. The performance was both fresh and ripe with over a decade of being performed at likely every Spoon concert – this wasn’t a bad thing, but I could tell they were eager to move through the setlist.
Following “Hot Thoughts,” the title track of their current album performed in vivacious synchronicity with the many strobe lights installed on the stage, Britt welcomed Toronto to the show. He let the excitable know that Spoon was there to play songs old and new, and jumped into “Everything Hits at Once” from 2001’s Girls Can Tell. It had been a while since I heard that album, but the biggest Spoon fans in the audience were thrilled.
Spoon is known for their driving basslines and beats, and this returned in full force with “Can I Sit Next to You,” which Live in Limbo’s Music Editor Dakota Arsenault acknowledged sounded an awful lot like “I Turn My Camera On,” to which I agree. “Don’t You Evah” came next, and while Britt sounded like his voice was becoming strained, it was a clear sign of the mastery of his instrument that he was able to consistently sound great (speaking of his instrument, he played guitar on less than half of the songs, more prone to roam around the stage in his best rock-star impression singing like everyone was watching).
The band took a brief break after “Do You,” leaving eccentric keyboardist Alex Fischel alone on stage – or so I thought. With the lights down on everything but Alex’s keyboard setup, I soon discovered that Britt was still on stage, lying in the darkness upstage on a large lighting rig. When he began singing “I Ain’t the One” after Alex’s almost Vangelis-Blade Runner-esque interlude, the crowd went wild seeing Britt starting out roller coaster of emotion-laden vocals (don’t worry, this was no mopey song, instead full of an almost triumphant vindication).
What followed was a string of tracks from previous albums, including “Anything You Want,” “My Mathematical Mind,” and “Don’t Make Me a Target.” It had been so long since I had heard some of these songs that they felt new, a testament to Spoon’s sometimes-sparse rock style that always seems to sound at home among their more radio-friendly hits, including the next track “The Underdog.” One of the bigger hits from their 2007 album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (and one of my favourite albums of the decade), they brought a fiery energy to a song that could be just as easily played in a more subtle way. This was just another indication of how on-fire the band was at Massey Hall, ready to tell the story of their music with life and vigour. This being my first time seeing Spoon, this sets a high bar for my next show!
The main set came to a close with “Rainy Taxi” and “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” but I’ll admit I was both already completely blown away and a little tired since it was a work night, but I remember more than anything that the crowd was ready to dance. Britt opened the encore with an acoustic rendition of “I Summon You,” another excellent track from Gimme Fiction and a great showcase of his singular talent. Spoon is just as much Britt’s voice as it is Jim Eno’s drumming, as the two of them started Spoon in the early 90s to set forth an artistic, indie rock sound grounded in the diverse vocal range Britt was displaying in his acoustic song.
The band returned for “Pink Up” but the crowd really went wild with “Rent I Pay,” the first single off They Want My Soul that lead to the success of that album. Massey Hall was in full voice singing along and the band was rocking out to their own sound – no small feat when you play the same song every night throughout a tour. I was almost worried that Alex Fischel might knock something over by the time he was kicking his amp during the final song “Got Nuffin.” This was their only song from Transference, a pared-down, quieter album from 2010 that I admit I’m not a fan of. It was a great way to end the concert, however, with Spoon reminding their adoring fans of their versatility and the passion they bring to their live show. The crowd didn’t need to be talked into enjoying Spoon at Massey Hall, and they were definitely not disappointed.