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Spoon w/ The Ponys @ The Pabst Theater

Oct. 8, 2007

Dec. 11, 2007
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October 11, 2007

Like an empty cardboard box in the hands of an imaginative child, a simple rhythm opens up a world of possibilities for Spoon. Over a herky-jerk pulse that changes remarkably little from song to song (or album to album), the foursome can evoke just about any genre it wants through just the slightest shifts. Add a punchy groove and you have the brittle funk of "I Turn My Camera On." Play up the piano and you get the cocky swagger of "The Way We Get By." Swap the piano for an electric guitar and you get a power-pop charmer like "Fitted Shirt." Murk up the mix and you get a moodier rocker like "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case."

They play loose and sloppy—part of their cool is how effortless they make it seem—but it takes a concerted ensemble to keep these songs chugging. With their sparse structure, the simpler tunes risk falling apart, while the busier, fractured ones threaten to collapse under the weight of the clatter.

At a bad Spoon show—and they do put on their share of bad shows—the group is too stiff or disorganized to avert that chaos, but they rose to the challenge at their Monday night Pabst Theater show. Although months of touring have compressed the sand in Britt Daniel's throat into shards of glass, he milked as much soul as possible from his worn, reedy voice. The band toyed with the songs more enthusiastically than usual, stretching them out and filling in some of their considerable blank space. Daniel mentioned they were just glad to be back on the road after a week spent at "Saturday Night Live" rehearsals, and if there were any doubts about whether they were having a good time, a second encore put them to rest.

Openers The Ponys, a hard-working quartet from Chicago, pounded out a mean set of late '80s/early '90s alternative rock. With their singer's dirty, Neil Young locks and their female bassist's spacey gaze, they even nodded to the visual aesthetic of the era, condensing "120 Minutes" into about 40.


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