Following the Strange Boys set, guitarist extraordinaire Bradford Cox took the Tabernacle stage and announced "We're Deerhunter from Marietta, Georgia." Cox and company have made a national name for themselves with their experimental noise rock, and it was nice to see them returning home, playing for an appreciative audience, as well as family and friends. Cox dedicated the song Little Kids to his mother ("This one's for you, Mom!"), pointing her out to the crowd up in the balcony, before informing the audience that the song was about a bunch of drunk kids who set an old man on fire.
Cox plays heavily treated guitar, employing many of the same delay, sustain and repeat techniques as Noveller, although in less of an ambient and more of a rock format. At the end of each song, he'd catch the closing sounds from his guitar and loop it over and over until the drummer kicked the next song into gear. The sounds between songs were often as interesting as the songs themselves, and that's taking absolutely nothing away from the songs. He closed the set with an incredible looped feedback wall of sound that built up into an outstanding A-Day-In-The-Life crescendo.
Of course, the top billing was for Spoon, and they lived up to their headliner status. Direct from SXSW 2010 in Austin, they played an incredible set from their extensive catalog (seven albums to date) and made every song sounded like the only one that you came to hear. They mixed older numbers like My Mathematical Mind and I Turned My Camera On from Gimme Fiction (2007) with newer songs like Written In Reverse and Got Nuffin', and every song sounded fresh and urgent. Like the band U2, Spoon have that remarkable ability to keep their audience wanting to hear their latest songs, despite the strength of their older compositions.
My one complaint was the lighting. Their stage set included colorful back lit screens that for some reason often provided the only illumination, and the spotlight was never directed onto the stage. They played most of their set either side-lit or in silhouette or even in relative darkness. The spotlight was on the audience more than the band, frequently and annoyingly in my eyes up in the balcony. Their intention may have been to eschew the rock-star persona and direct the audience's attention away from the band and back onto the experience, and the silhouette effects were occasionally dramatic, but the audience paid their hard-earned money to see the band as well as to listen and dance.
But that's only a minor complaint. The sold-out Tabernacle crowd and your humble narrator were enthusiastic and loud, and several times guitarist and singer Britt Daniel appreciatively noted, "You're a noisy crowd! We like that!" After their set, they came out for a three-song encore, and following that, they performed a second three-song set. And what does it say about the depth of their catalog that they can end the second three-song set with a number as strong as You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb from 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga?
I understand that the Strange Boys-Deerhunter-Spoon tour plays sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall tomorrow night and Boston's House of Blues on Saturday (interestingly, Atlanta's Tabernacle was once a House of Blues). Ben Sisario previewed the Radio City Music Hall show in the New York Times as follows: "Led by Britt Daniel, one of the best songwriters ever to be stuck with the meaningless appellation indie, Spoon accomplishes a lot with a little. Its tight, jabby songs, influenced equally by minimalist post-punk and sentimental white soul, end just when you think you’ve figured them out. So you must listen again and again and again, with pleasure." According to The New Yorker, "Spoon emerged from Austin during the halcyon days of the Clinton Administration, with a raw, aggressive sound that combined the best elements of punk and indie rock. The band delivers tight songs with solid hooks that get right to the heart of the matter. Atlanta's Deerhunter opens the show with its compelling mix of ambient soundscapes and discord."
I look forward to seeing what the critics have to say following these shows.
Update (3/27): Creative Loafing ran a good review of the Atlanta show, and judging by the picture accompanying the article, the reviewer must have been sitting right next to me. Other good photos from Atlanta can be found here. The earliest review of the Radio City Music Hall show that I found was posted here. Brooklyn Vegan also ran an excellent review, complete with lots of pictures and videos.