The deans of Austin alternative rock for over twenty-five years, Spoon hit another milestone in their impressive career: hitting the ACL stage for the fifth time. It may not seem like it, what with the Willies and Haggards and Lyles and Asleep at the Wheels, but the number of artists who visit that many times or more is pretty small. That it’s a band from our hometown makes it even more special – especially a band that’s hitting a new peak in its own career. The quintet’s tenth album Lucifer On the Sofa is one of their most acclaimed, and its songs formed the heart of their taping.
Driven by Jim Eno’s pounding kit, Spoon kicked off the show with the hard-rocking “Held,” the powerhouse opener from Sofa. Leader Britt Daniel’s famed pop sense took hold on follow-up “Feels Alright,” without losing the rock & roll fervor. Spoon next looked back a few years to their breakthrough Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga for “Don’t You Evah,” a choice that earned immediate cheers, before moving on to Transference for the brow-furrowing rock tune “The Mystery Zone.” Daniel took a moment to reminisce about the free beer that was available at tapings in the pre-Moody Theater days before digging into the grooving boogie of “The Hardest Cut,” on which the band essayed their own take on old school classic rock. Daniel and company then reached all the way back to 1998 for the popwise “Metal Detektor,” wasting no time before moving into the blazing, beat-heavy “Got Nuffin.”
Three saxophonists and a trombonist then joined Spoon onstage for the chunky rock of “The Devil & Mr. Jones” and the melody-rich title track to the new album, with splashes of reverb splitting the difference between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The horns stayed with the band for a spirited zip through the ultra-catchy “The Underdog,” which, as Spoon’s breakthrough radio hit, garnered the loudest, longest cheers yet. As the horn section exited the stage, Daniel kept the acoustic guitar he’d donned for “Underdog” and solicited requests, ending on the vibrant pop of “My Babe,” which just happened to be the next song on the setlist. “Inside Out” followed, its keyboard-heavy pop featuring Daniel singing on his back on the stage in one of his rare turns without a guitar – at least until the song’s outro. Back to his trusty Telecaster, Daniel ended the main set with the dynamic, danceable “Wild,” driving the audience, yes, wild.
Given the fans’ enthusiasm, Spoon had to come back for more. Keyboardist/guitarist Gerardo Larios arrived first, starting with a familiar piano melody, drawing out Daniel and the rest of the band for an impassioned performance of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band standout “Isolation.” “Do us a favor,” Daniel said after finishing, “act like we’re the Who for a second.” Then he led the band into “Utilitarian,” a song from the band’s second LP A Series of Sneaks. After a brief false start, Daniel and crew then took us to Gimme Fiction for the dramatic “My Mathematical Mind,” which built into a frenzy of noise rock and flashing strobes. Despite the Big Rock Ending, Eno went straight into the bashing garage rock of “Rent I Pay,” with a second BRE, and a crowd of fans proclaiming their appreciation for as loud and as long as possible. It was a great show, possibly our best Spoon taping yet, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our Season 48.
Spoon tapes Austin City Limits, Oct. 19, 2022. Photos by Scott Newton.