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Spoon w/ The Clientele (Sunday, June 12th, 2005, First Avenue, Minneapolis)

By David de Young

The Clientele - Publicity Photo

First Avenue made it look easy, but having two main room shows scheduled back to back Sunday night made it tough to guess the set times before heading down to the venue. My mistake was foolishly projecting the start times of the first bands based on the door time of the second show, instead of (hello!) the door time of the first show. Doors were at 5 for the Spoon / Clientele show and at 10 for the Stephen Malkmus / Paik show. The Clientele played at 6:30. Malkmus did not take the stage till after midnight. (HowWasTheShow provides two separate and blessedly conflicting accounts of the Malkmus show here and here.)

I’d been excited to see down-tempo lo-fi Londoners The Clientele for some months. They were admittedly my primary reason for being excited about the Spoon bill early on. But we arrived late at the all ages show and sadly spent too much time in the crowded balcony jockeying for a position in the "alcohol zone" while consuming our first beverages of the night to catch more than a few moments of the opening band.

The Clientele

I don’t remember exactly how I discovered the Clientele. But I remember it being inspired by their often London-specific lyrics a long time ago in an Audiogalaxy far, far away, back before the Napster crackdown and the RIAA lawsuits.

Whether I came by the songs from their EP A Fading Summer and the full length Suburban Light legally or not is beside the point by now. “Bicycles” (from A Fading Summer is one of the airiest soft pop songs I’ve heard in the past 5 years -- light, yet haunting as hell, kind of like Kings of Convenience meets The Monkeys if you imagine the end result is a sentimentality that borders on genuine sadness (or possibly boredom, if you are not in a properly hazy mood.) Take the following image from the song: “I remember one Sunday / riding in through the gate / three balloons in white sky / 1978.” The sudden shift to a minor key at the end of the phrase sends shivers up the spine. And it's suddenly clear to you why, as the singer says later, he's been driving in his car on Sunday in the rain.

The Clientele's 2003 release The Violet Hour received primarily favorable reviews, and their next album Strange Geometry will be out on Merge Records this fall.

Spoon - Publicity photo

Spoon

The thing about Spoon is not that they’re doing something so terribly exciting as much that they’re doing it so damn well. Somehow, with Gimme Fiction, Britt Daniels and company have managed to create yet another indie rock album that if not already a classic (a mere two weeks after its release) it surely will be by the time many “Best Of” lists are compiled at year’s end.

On my first hearing of Gimme Fiction, it didn’t quite sink in. So I caution you against giving it only a cursory or background listen or you may not “get it.” By the second and third time I heard it, however, I was hooked by the precise, slow, but never plodding skeletons of songs. Daniels has an uncanny knack for presenting you with the minimum requirements of what you need, both live and on his albums, so that the actual songs ultimately construct themselves in your head.

Though Spoon has been around since 1994, and many songs from earlier albums Girls Can Tell (2001) and Kill The Moonlight (2002) may have been more familiar to a good part of the audience, songs from Gimme Fiction took center stage Sunday night; and if it wasn’t clear before, it was obvious by the end of their performance at First Avenue that GF is now on the required listening list for any serious Spoon fan.

On the outside chance you own no Spoon at all, because of their consistently high quality albums (allmusic rates their last 4 albums with 4 plus stars each) you may as well start with Gimme Fiction and just work your way backwards.

Spoon’s consistency, and the straightforward professionalism of the show at First Avenue Sunday night make my job here easy. They opened with “The Beast and the Dragon Adored,” the song that opens the new disc, and immediately grabbed the audience’s attention with their intricate combination of slow, yet steady tension. Throughout the show I noted the bouncy 2/2 rhythm of many songs, as if Britt Daniels decided counting higher than two isn’t really necessary to make compelling rock and roll. (He's right.) The soft-headed tympani stick approach to the drums on “Paper Tiger” from Kill the Moonlight -- which gave it a primitive sparseness-- was a set highlight for me. The ended the set proper with "Me and The Bean" from Girls Can Tell, then after a quick break, the band was back for an encore that included “My Mathmatical Mind” (where Daniels counts all the way to 6!) and perhaps the band’s best known song “Jonathan Fisk” from Kill The Moonlight as a set closer.

Though the show was perhaps remarkable for its unremarkableness, the tired phrase “Not likely to disappoint” fits Spoon perfectly.

Setlist (thanks to Lee at First Avenue for grabbing this for me)

1. The Beast and the Dragon Adored (Gimme Fiction)
2. Monsieur Valentine (Gimme Fiction)
3. Someone Something (Kill The Moonlight)
4. Lines in the Suit (Girls Can Tell)
5.The Fitted Shirt (Girls Can Tell)
6. The Delicate Place (Gimme Fiction)
7. I Turn My Camera On (Gimme Fiction)
8. Sister Jack (Gimme Fiction)
9. They Never Got You (Gimme Fiction)
10. Paper Tiger (Kill The Moonlight)
11. Small Stakes (Kill the Moonlight)
12. Everything Hits at Once (Girls Can Tell)
13. Vittorio e (Kill The Moonlight)
14. Utilitarian (A Series of Sneaks)
15. I Summon You (Gimme Fiction)
16. Anything You Want (Girls Can Tell)
17. The Way We Get By (Kill The Moonlight)
18. Me and the Bean (Girls Can Tell)


Encore
1. My Mathematical Mind (Kill The Moonlight)
2. Car Radio (A Series of Sneaks).
3. Jonathan Fisk (Kill the Moonlight)

Related links:

Spoon Live review on Chart Attack