A Big Band in a Small RoomJanuary 22nd, 2010
The sidewalk in front of Mercury Lounge was divided into two lines like some sort of downtown apartheid: One for those seeking to pay their way in to see Britt Daniel and the other for those with their names on the guest list. They were faced in opposite directions—the music-industry insiders and the morally righteous superfans willing to stand in the cold and pay real money for music. It was thus written on the street that something special was happening inside. A band that will play Radio City Music Hall in two months was playing this tiny sold-out venue.
Spoon took the stage just after 10 and, Daniel, in a brown fitted shirt (he wrote an entire song about this in 2001), was awkward in the way cool people can get away with being weird and compelling. He thanked us for coming, and the room buzzed with the sense that we should be thanking him. Spoon slipped into “Black Like Me,” maybe their most cerebral effort, before shifting into “Is Love Forever?,” off their latest album, Transference, a downstroke anthem that ends with a collision of reverb and the feeling of a pulled plug. Daniel played most of the new record, including “Who Makes Your Money” and “Nobody Gets Me but You,” in the first half of the set. The crowd, quite obviously a sea of personal and music-business connections, leaned close and the room approached the feeling of a birthday party where everyone was sure their invitation was genuine.
Daniel upped the ante in the set’s final third. Favorites “Cherry Bomb,” “I Summon You” and “Beast and Dragon, Adored,” appeared next to new cuts like “Mystery Zone,” “Written in Reverse” and the night’s closer, the propulsive “Got Nuffin.” Daniel thanked us again for standing in the cold and we silently replied that we mostly hadn’t. But some did, and for the feeling of a major event with a big band in a little room, this is exactly what counted. —Geoff Nelson