Spoon/White Rabbits

Academy 3, Manchester 15/02/2010
By Peter Rea

There’s nothing like walking into a gig when the band has just started. A large crowd has gathered early to catch the support, White Rabbits, whose media profile suggests that they could be on a successful tour of their own. The stage is busy, 3 guitarists, keys, drummer, and a lively percussionist whose pounding, booming beat gives the album material extra life.

The first tune, ‘Foxhunting’, is energetic, but after a brief introduction (“we are White Rabbits”) they move up a few more gears with ‘Rudie Fails’. They switch vocals, the hyperactive percussionist moves about the stage to aid on drums, tambourine and keyboards as they appear to be performing on a bouncing stage. They’re giving it their all and after only the second tune, some of them look somewhat out of breath.

The drums and bass draws heavy influence from 70’s/80’s London and the likes of The Clash and Adam And The Ants, while the guitars and vocals carry the energy of Merseyside bands like The Coral or The La’s. Friendly punk from New York.

‘While We Go Dancing’ vocally has elements of the verses from Queen’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’, with added shimmering guitar from Interpol’s ‘The Lighthouse’. ‘Kid On My Shoulders’ encapsulates the experience and is the highlight of the set with its pounding rhythm and relentless piano riff, followed by a chorus of uplifting lyrics. Excited. The set continues without pause as the crowd are itching to show their appreciation but aren’t given the chance.

There’s a change of vocalist for ‘The Plot’, the show is ever morphing and full of experimentation. There’s a brief rest during the intro of ‘Lionesse’ but this also builds to a heavy, beat driven anthem. Their tune of the moment ‘Percussion Gun’ contains less guitar but that allows the vocals and beat to shine even more than previously.

After an extended and thrilling version of ‘The Salesman (Tramp Life)’, the show is over and the crowd are given their chance to make some noise.  The most generous response I’ve heard for a support band for as long as I can recall.

Spoon’s frontman, Britt Daniel, produced White Rabbits latest album ‘It’s Frightening’, so I’m expecting more of the same. The stage seems less active now with just four, not so outwardly energetic band members. 

They start with ‘The Mystery Zone’. The bassist sticks largely to one note and the drummers simple bass-snare-bass-snare beat plods on under Britt’s economical vocal range. ‘The Beast and Dragon, Adored’ starts like a bond theme tune, more notably the one written by Jack White, but with John Lennon vocals. The comparisons to The Beatles doesn’t end there, the entire set carries the vibe of the verses from ‘Cry Baby Cry’ on The White Album and some of The Beatles lyrics seem to have had an influence.

There’s a touch of Interpol here too, in the sense that the tunes are minimal and simple, but at the same time interesting and intriguing. ‘Got Nuffin’ from their latest album ‘Transference’ is similar to Joy Division and they’ve even gone as far to give the songs title a British accent.

A member of White Rabbits joins Spoon onstage to perform a cover of The Damned tune, ‘Love Song’. The drummer faces a big shift in tempo here and benefits from the support. Britt’s vocals are enhanced on ‘Rhythm & Soul’ by heavy reverb at the end of a line, an effect that is repeated a few times. 

‘Nobody Gets Me But You’ has a Prince feel to it and contains heavily distorted drums that crackle sharply and give the impression the speakers are about to explode out of the walls. The lights are well choreographed, matching the lyrics on ‘Out Go the Lights’. Overall, a very polished performance.

The encore brings the song tally over twenty, but I’m starting to flag after 3 hours stood tapping my feet. I wish I could endure more. The band ask the audience to suggest an after party location but would’ve happily played on all night had the venue allowed them. There’s a hint of disappointment that the show wasn’t even longer. It must be a good sign if you play for that period of time and still leave the crowd wanting more.

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