Spoon’s appearance at Canalside was supposed to be the feather in the cap of the free summer concert series.
And it was.
There are promising shows to come, but if one tops what went down on Thursday, well, that will be a real accomplishment.
What was so great about it? It certainly wasn’t the crowd – but we’ll get to that later. The weather may have played into it a bit – it was a perfect night for outdoor rock ’n’ roll, for sure.
But really, what made this show spectacular was the music. Spoon simply killed it. And opening sets from Toronto’s July Talk and Buffalo’s Tomoreaux were outstanding, too.
This was Spoon’s first appearance on a major Buffalo stage, and the Austin, Texas-based indie band gave us what we’d been waiting for. It was about the tunes, for sure – leader Britt Daniel writes strong songs with unexpected chord changes and spot-on manipulation of light and shade. And when Spoon – Daniel, drummer Jim Eno, multi-instrumentalist Alex Fischel, keyboardist Eric Harvey, and bassist Rob Pope – play those songs, they take off into the alt-rock stratosphere, there to mingle with the likes of David Bowie, Wilco and Radiohead.
Dressed in black, with minimalist lighting that emphasized shadows, Spoon took over Canalside with a dark and funky aesthetic. Emphasizing tunes from the new album – the sublime “They Want My Soul” – the band also dug deep into the record that made them the group we who love serious music could like back in 2004, when the band’s “Kill the Moonlight” was released, just in time to remind us that the term “alternative” needn’t be synonymous with “horrible and out of tune and poorly written and even more poorly conceived.”
Early highlights of what proved to be an immaculate set included “Knock Knock Knock,” a piece that employs a favored Daniel motif involving stop-time chords played in a slamming fashion that suggests what the Stooges might’ve sounded like had they been better musicians. There was the early nugget “The Way We Get By,” which sounded like garage rock played by dudes with master’s degrees in something – and “Small Stakes,” which is just a thumper of a tune, all weird Bowie-isms and rough-but-right, “Exile On Main St.” delivery.
Daniel donned an acoustic guitar for a stern and impressive “I Summon You,” led the band through a particularly moving version of the hook-heavy “Do You,” and made it clear that Jack White is not the finest purveyor of modern garage-rock with a sexy and strutting “Rent I Pay.” Fantastic, all of it.
Toronto’s July Talk should be headlining its own show around Buffalo. What a wonderful blend of gritty post-modern blues and alt/indie rock the band offered. Huge hooks, fat-as-fat-can-get guitar riffs, and a super-compelling male/female vocal mix made this outfit incredibly endearing. Tomoreaux, the Buffalo band honored to open the proceedings after winning the Canalside Battle of the Bands, is a band I plan to keep my eye on.
Blending gorgeously effect-laden guitars with languid, psychedelic tempos and washes of reverb-heavy sound, the young band came across as a marriage of seminal shoegaze bands like the Cure and Joy Division with more contemporary space-rock outfits like Godspeed You Black emperor! and Russian Circles.
Musically, Thursday was a night to remember. However, it must be noted that Canalside concerts have changed. Yes, it is high school graduation weekend for many area schools, and yes, these concerts are free and open to people of all ages. However, if your plan is to come to Canalside simply to do things you can’t get away with at home, to ignore the music, and to create problems for people who are there for the music – well, why not find something else to do?