Live Show Review: Spoon at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22

Alex Fischel and Britt Daniel of Spoon at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Nearly 30 years into its career, Spoon could be one of those bands that is doing fan service with a live show. But fortunately most bands of its era haven’t exactly done that and its show at the Mission Ballroom in Denver seemed both a celebration of being able to do live shows again, for now, and still proving itself touring for Lucifer on the Sofa, a rock and roll follow up to the luminously moody Hot Thoughts.

Geese at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22, photo by Tom Murphy

When Geese opened the show it seemed as though more than a few people found it to be a bit of a head scratcher. The performance was somehow both focused and shambolic, driven by a jazz quintet’s dynamic precision and a jam band’s free flowing aesthetic, part punk, part prog. Almost always within the same song. Vocalist Cameron Winter strode about the stage like wandering around, bemused, relating unusual stories with a free association improv flair. Pretty much the whole set was comprised of tracks from the group’s extraordinary 2021 debut album Projector but seeing this presentation of the music added another dimension to Geese’s widely expressive aesthetic. The energy felt like seeing some friends rehearse for their big stage debut for mutual acquaintances with no pressure and the freedom of that and seeming to be unmindful and not overly conscious of playing to a crowd mostly there to see a band with a fairly lengthy legacy. If you’re going to the UMS in 2022 this band will perform on some stage and likely in a smaller venue setting.

Geese at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Jim Eno and Britt Daniel of Spoon at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Spoon has probably played thousands of shows across three decades and in a wide variety of settings. The last time this writer saw Spoon was somehow in the fall of 2002 at Tulagi’s in Boulder during the touring cycle for Kill the Moonlight. The group then was impressive enough in a small club with songs that seemed so sophisticated and well crafted for a band playing a venue that often then featured music much more raw and noisy. Fast forward some twenty years and Spoon seems to have injected its current performance style and songwriting with some raw edge without losing its elegantly arranged songwriting. You could tell that everyone seemed happy with not just being there but with the crowd response. Britt Daniels regularly interacted with people in the front row directly and with people further back from the stage by making eye contact and acknowledging people who were giving back the energy Spoon was putting forth. Bassist Ben Trokan looked genuinely in awe of what the band was doing collectively and the mutual emotional dynamic between the crowd and the performers. He looked a little like a young Scott Baio with a wardrobe choice seeming to come right out of an 80s movie. It made for an interesting aesthetic like we were seeing a band that had some consciousness of how they were dressed but let the rock theater of the musical performance speak loudest.

Ben Trokan of Spoon at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22, photo by Tom Murphy

And we were certainly treated to selections from a wide swath of Spoon’s career with a slight emphasis on the new record at roughly a third of the set of twenty-one songs (including the encore). “My Mathematical Mind” was a standout of the night with its reworking into a song that expanded into epic proportions giving the musicians some space to stretch the song out without spilling over into gross self-indulgence. For a band with such tight songwriting and sensibilities that always seem to put exactly the right touches on songs so as to not waste a moment in the listening it was a welcome change into a different side of Spoon’s collective musicianship and one that allowed for variations in arrangements and to go off the established map of the original song to that degree. The whole set seemed like hit after hit even when it was lesser known songs. Something about the forcefulness of the show like an inner emotional momentum was pushing the band into giving it an extra push into cutting loose around the edges while coming back together in perfect sync. It all proved why Spoon has maintained more than a simple cult following and with its new batch of songs, some of the best and most immediately appealing of its long career maybe it’ll garner a new generation of fans.

Gerardo Larios of Spoon at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Spoon Set List for the Mission Ballroom 5/24/22

  1. Held
  2. Small Stakes
  3. Don’t You Evah
  4. Do You
  5. The Beast and Dragon, Adored
  6. The Hardest Cut
  7. Satellite
  8. The Underdog
  9. My Babe
  10. I Summon You
  11. Lucifer on the Sofa
  12. Don’t Make Me A Target
  13. My Mathematical Mind
  14. Inside Out
  15. I Turn My Camera On
  16. Got Nuffin
  17. Wild
  18. The Way We Get By
  19. The Fitted Shirt
  20. Black Like Me
  21. Rent I Pay
Britt Daniel of Spoon at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Britt Daniel and Ben Trokan of Spoon at Mission Ballroom 5/24/22, photo by Tom Murphy