I was a bit worried that this gig might have turned out to be one of those awkwardly unpopulated affairs, considering the noticeable push for ticket sales in the week leading up to the event. When I arrived, O Emperor had just begun their set to a fairly standard crowd for that time of the night. Another overwhelming advertising push made sure I was aware of the recent release of O Emperor’s debut album, but I haven’t given it a listen as of yet. On the evidence of this performance and previous outings, I’ll have to do something about that soon. The guys all look like they’ve just walked out of the 1970’s… costume shop, but their floral shirts and flared jeans are in keeping with a good bit of their sound. It’s reminiscent of the big-band folk rock of the 70s with a focus on careful vocals and excellent musicianship.
Headliners Spoon also draw on bygone styles to create their 90s alt-rock sound. They arrive onstage to a great response from the ground floor which is now reasonably full though with a comfortable amount of breathing space which the crowd gladly use to facilitate their shuffling, nodding and other muso alternatives to actual dancing. By the time the band start, the only obvious difference in the venue is that the balcony level is completely devoid of all the usual liggers and hangers-on. As if they need to, the band remind us that this is their first headline gig in Ireland having last visited these shores five years ago supporting Interpol. From their wealth of material, the band largely stick to their most recent two albums, 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and this year’s Transference, and why shouldn’t they. On these most recent efforts, the band have been more focused and have found a home somewhere between the slacker rock of some of their contemporaries in the early days and their penchant for slow, sparse grooves. One of the defining aspects of Spoon’s sound is the synchronised, syncopated punches of guitar, bass and keys with Britt Daniel’s softly scratching vocals on top. This formula is strongly evident in The Academy and it works like a charm. Songs like “The Mystery Zone” and “I Turn My Camera On” sound impeccable. Like O Emperor, their music sounds like it could have come from decades past, but for the contemporary nous that sets them apart from others pedalling old tricks. They’ve got some aces still up their sleeves and though “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” feels a little weak – mostly due to the piano sounding wafer thin – the encore rendition of “The Underdog” is more than good enough to appease those that had been cheering for it for quite a while. Towards the end, Britt Daniel thanks people for coming and making their first headline gig in Ireland so special. He mentions again that it’s been five years since their last visit and follows this with “It won’t be – “. He cuts himself off, sheepishly, as the band begin the next song, leaving the observant amongst the crowd wondering when we’ll be likely to be treated to another helping of Spoon.