Third Man Records, London
23rd March 2022
Spoon members Britt Daniel and Alex Fischel give an intimate, unplugged performance of classics and songs from new album Lucifer On The Sofa at Third Man Records in London. Nils van der Linden heads down Carnaby Street.
The basement is hot. Britt Daniel and Alex Fischel have had a long day. They’re playing to around 30 people who haven’t even paid to be there. And yet the Spoon duo are giving it their all.
But that’s always been the band’s approach to live performance: crank up the intensity of their studio recordings so they sound more visceral, more direct, more emotional.
The venue and audience may be smaller than usual, but the emotion is not. Perhaps that’s because the duo are really invested in spreading the word about Spoon’s excellent new album, Lucifer On The Sofa, without the aid of a conventional tour. Tonight their whirlwind promo trek finds them down the stairs, past the retro “mind your head” sign, from the shop floor of Third Man Records in Soho.
Daniel explains that just today, amongst “a lot of other things”, they’d already traveled from Dublin, appeared on legendary producer Dennis Bovell’s radio show, and recorded a podcast with Adam Buxton of The Adam And Joe Show (who sets a fittingly intimate mood by self-deprecatingly reading a gushing note he’d sent the band in 2003 — and revealing that Daniel had replied with just “Thanks for the letter”).
Although the singer himself is equally loose and engaging in his banter, the focus is very much on the songs, performed on just acoustic guitars and a keyboard. It’s a setup that really suits the tracks from Lucifer On The Sofa, an album that intentionally feels like a band hashing out songs together in a room.
The Wild — played at full tilt from the start, without the recorded version’s gradual build — sounds more urgent tonight. The Hardest Cut, all Southern boogie on record, may lack the original’s swampy groove and alternatingly choppy and chiming guitars, but Daniel’s gutsy vocal makes up for the missing band members.
A tender rendition of My Babe, with Fischel on keys, sounds no less touching and perhaps even more beautiful than the slow-burning ’70s-tinted take recorded in Austin, Texas with producer Mark Rankin. And Satellite, another one that slowly builds to a crescendo, by way of a languid electric guitar solo, more than makes do tonight with a strummed acoustic, Fischel’s flourishing substitute piano solo, and Daniel’s delivery of lines like “I see angels above you, But I know I love you more”.
Other songs from the Spoon catalogue are equally well represented. The Way We Get By, from 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, was already a rather-lo-fi piano stomp and benefits from the obvious confidence Daniel has gained as a singer over the past 20 years.
Stripped of its shimmering production and California-sunshine vocal harmonies, the barebones rendition of Do You drips with even more despair than the take on They Want My Soul. And, without its equally lush twinkling keys, spacey synths, and shuffling programmed rhythm track, Inside Out is able to rip your heart out with little more than a gently rolling piano and completely natural vocal.
The eight-song set ends with Rainy Taxi (Big Beat), the stripped-back take on a 2014 Spoon track that Daniel and Fischel originally released in 2020 as part of a Bandcamp Friday fundraiser. Driven by one of those keyboard-preset handclap-beats — which obviously inspired the revised name — it’s all about Fischel’s assertive playing and the unfiltered emotion in Daniel’s voice.
And just like that, it’s over. Afterwards the duo mingle with the leftovers now back up on the Third Man Records shop floor, and Daniel admits the full band are keen to come back once the ongoing uncertainty around international touring lifts. On the strength of Lucifer On The Sofa — and tonight’s set — their return should be triumphant.
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