We love having hometown heroes on Austin City Limits. So we’re thrilled to welcome ACL vets Spoon back for our 40th anniversary season. Masterful songwriter and singer Britt Daniel had led his crew to our stage on three other occasions: in 2002, 2005 and 2010. Now riding high on their rapturously received new record They Want My Soul, Spoon returned for their fourth taping to rock ACL once again.
The quintet opened the show with the new album’s “Knock Knock Knock,” a moody rock tune punctuated by Alex Fischel’s noisy guitar solos. The band then swung directly into “Rent I Pay,” another They Want My Soul tune that proved that Spoon has only gotten tighter, hookier and more melodic as they’ve matured. The band drew mostly from its three most recent albums thereafter, banging out tasty, tension-filled pop rockers like “Who Makes Your Money,” “Do You” and “Rainy Taxi” and groovier, more atmospheric numbers a la “Way We Get By” (which found Fischel joining the audience with his tambourine), “The Ghost of You Lingers” (on which Jim Eno abandoned his drum kit to take up one of our handheld cameras) and “Don’t You Evah.” They split the difference with “Don’t Make Me a Target,” which started out stacatto and moved into limber by the end, thanks in part to Eric Harvey’s clavinet. Much to the fans’ delight, Spoon dipped into their two decades’ of catalog as well, with the piano-driven “Way We Get By,” winsome “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” and gloriously choppy “I Turn My Camera On.” Preferring a no-frills approach, Spoon makes a virtue of straightforward, gimmick-free performances, contrasting Daniel’s vibrant, barely contained cool with Fischel’s spastic thrashing.
Spoon ended the main set with the postpunk slash of “Got Nuffin” and the more jangling “Black Like Me,” but the evening wasn’t over yet. The band returned with a pair of gems from They Want My Soul, the nearly funky “Outlier” and the snappy title cut. But it was the ending that brought down the house, as the band blazed through a dynamic version of its radio hit “The Underdog,” giving it as close to a big rawk finish as they’ll ever come. It was a bravura performance, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs on PBS early next year.