“Thanks for coming to our rehearsal,” Spoon leader Britt Daniel told a couple hundred fortunate fans who got into Antone’s Friday night for a stealth 40-minute set from the biggest of all Austin indie-rock bands.
Word about the performance had gone out Thursday night to select fans via the band’s email list, with a link to a ticket-buying page for the club’s already-booked show featuring local acts Jai Malano and Don Leady & His Rockin’ Revue. By Friday morning, tickets were sold out. Both bands graciously moved their sets back an hour to allow Spoon to slide into the first slot.
Such surprise hometown club appearances aren’t new for the band, who did a similar gig at Hotel Vegas three years ago shortly before the release of their 2014 album “They Want My Soul.” The motivation was similar this time, as Spoon reportedly has a new record coming in March on Matador Records.
And indeed, they opened the show with five new tunes. “That’s the first time we’ve played those songs,” Daniel confirmed before the group shifted gears to finish with four numbers drawn from previous records: “Inside Out” and “Rainy Taxi” from “They Want My Soul,” “Don’t You Evah” from 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” and “My Mathematical Mind” from Gimme Fiction.
The new material seemed mostly of a piece with the sharp-edged, punk-fueled pop that dominates the band’s back catalog, with no major sonic departures other than their gradual shift in recent years toward more reliance on keyboards. Alex Fischel (who joined the band for “They Want My Soul”) and Eric Harvey doubled on guitars and keyboards, with bassist Rob Pope and co-founding drummer Jim Eno anchoring the rhythm. Daniel did a few songs primarily as a vocalist without an instrument, though he generally ended up strapping on a guitar near the end for an aggressive finish or a stinging solo.
Interaction with the crowd, which packed in tightly toward the front of the club but gave way to more breathing room toward the back, was mostly warm and friendly. “We’re having a good time tonight,” Daniel said midway through the set, noting that it was the band’s first show in 14 months. He responded to a request for an old favorite by revealing, “We did recently relearn that, but not tonight.” They kept the set tight and focused, taking the stage at 10 p.m. sharp and departing at 10:41, with Daniel encouraging the crowd to stick around for the two acts originally booked on the bill.
Among those in attendance were South by Southwest music festival director James Minor and co-founder Roland Swenson. Does that suggest a Spoon appearance at SXSW? With that new album on the horizon, it seems likely.
Here’s the full set list, courtesy of the band’s Twitter page: