It took Spoon nearly a decade of thankless touring to break out of small clubs, but on Thursday night, they happily returned to one, stomping through old favorites ("Cherry Bomb," "Fitted Shirt") and most of their new album, Transference, for a mere 250 people at New York's Mercury Lounge. Transference finds indie-rock's tightest band getting (relatively) loose, and their live show followed suit — while they're still in no danger of being mistaken for a jam band, frontman Britt Daniel led them through several extended instrumental breaks, including a drony interlude punctuated with bursts of off-kilter piano from Eric Harvey on the hypnotic new tune "No One Gets Me But You."
The strong new songs blended seamlessly with the old, though some of them are still taking shape as live pieces: A raw take on "Written in Reverse" was a bracingly angry blast, while "Mystery Zone" was harder-hitting but less interesting without its studio atmospherics. Spoon's real U.S. tour starts in March, hitting venues as large as Radio City Music Hall, and in all, the band sounded more than ready for them: On 2001's Girls Can Tell, "Fitted Shirt" 's "When the Levee Breaks" beat came off as a jokey pastiche — but at the Mercury Lounge, drummer Jim Eno and bassist Rob Pope turned the groove into something fully Zep-like, and almost fearsome.
For more on Spoon, see our profile in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, on sale now.