“Hello, brothers and sisters,” a voice calls out from the darkness. You’ve just stepped into an unlit freight elevator carrying you up to New York’s McKittrick Hotel – the setting of the popular immersive theater experience-slash-haunted house Sleep No More – and the elevator operator is an actor delivering an anxious monologue about lost souls. When you get upstairs, people mill around the bar; if you’re lucky, another actor might grab you, pull you away to another pitch-black room, whisper urgently in your ear that you’re in mortal danger, shine her flashlight to show you a creepy hooded figure in the dark, then disappear.
Such things might happen at any performance of Sleep No More, but last night was special: The McKittrick was the site of a secret (MySpace-sponsored) Spoon show that celebrated the band’s excellent eighth album, They Want My Soul, and all that spooky atmosphere was setting the table for a scarily good performance. A little after 9:30 p.m., a lounge singer came out to sing a haunting, jazzy version of “I Just Don’t Understand,” from the band’s new album; as she finished, five hooded men made their way through the crowd. It was classic Sleep No More. Then the red curtain flew up, the bright lights blazed on and Spoon swept away any trace of pretension.
They opened with a bracing attack on the new “Knock Knock Knock.” Frontman Britt Daniel’s vicious slashes at his guitar set a tone for the rest of the night – a lean, intense set that emphasized Spoon’s livewire punk energy. New member Alex Fischel, a keyboardist-guitarist imported from Daniel’s side project Divine Fits, fit in naturally without making the band any less light on its feet.
Spoon aced the five new songs they played, from the Al Green-esque groove of “Inside Out” to the bitter recriminations of “Outlier” to the hoarse howl of “Rent I Pay,” which built to an insane detonation of a solo from Daniel. The five older songs in the main set hit just as hard: the raw majesty of 2005’s “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” the tight-wound jitter of 2002’s “Small Stakes.” It was a semi-random grab-bag of songs from their deep catalog, but it felt like a greatest hits.
Spoon left the stage around 10:30 in a flare of feedback, after an edge-of-madness performance of 2009’s “Got Nuffin.” They returned a minute later – “You’re still here!” Daniel said in mock surprise – and went into a serrated jam on 2005’s “I Turn My Camera On,” followed by the pure pop uplift of 2007’s “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb.”
That was supposed to be it, but the audience demanded one more, and Daniel complied, calling an audible to the rest of the band. They closed out the night with “Black Like Me,” the tender bruise that ends 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and it felt like the right note to finish on. What happened last night at the McKittrick probably won’t be replicated ever again, but it made a strong case that you’d be a fool to miss Spoon in concert if you get the chance.
“Knock Knock Knock”
“The Beast and Dragon, Adored”
“Don’t Make Me a Target”
“Who Makes Your Money”
“Rent I Pay”
“I Turn My Camera On”
“You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”
“Black Like Me”