Spoon, the Walkmen, White Rabbits
Concert date: 04/12/2008
Run date: 04/18/2008
How, my friends and I wondered, could two decent-to-great, relatively well-known indie rock bands play on one bill for a $10-$15 ticket? How does anyone make any money?
Upon walking into The Norva, we had the answer: Towering blonde models in short black dresses at the door, animated displays on either side of the entrance, large neon signs on the walls that hadn’t been there three days before -- this tour was brought to us by Camel cigarettes. I say this with no real judgment, only as an observation. Especially for bands that have been around for a few years, survived battles with record labels and probably gotten as big as they’re going to get, I don’t begrudge artists getting their music out any way they can.
The Walkmen, we know, have no problem with commercialism, having appeared on “The O.C.” and featuring their song “We‘ve Been Had” on a Saturn commercial. As perhaps a tiny act of rebellion, they did not play that particular tune. While they didn’t act like a band with anything to be ashamed of, the Walkmen certainly looked like a band with something to prove. And they did. Singer Hamilton Leithauser, dapper in a gray three-piece suit, attacked the band’s garage band-by-way-of-Interpol songs with such force we wondered if he would be able to speak after the show. His cousin (they could be twins), multi-instrumentalist Walter Martin, diminutive drummer Matt Barrick, and the rest of the band kicked up a storm of beautiful noise behind him. (Props, by the way, to whoever picked the between-set music at this show, for treating us to The Kinks’ “Victoria” and other lesser-known Britpop and 50’s rock classics.)
Spoon, riding high on a wave of critical praise for its sixth album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, made good use of all that cigarette money. A dazzling light show emphasized the band’s atmospheric music, drenched in reverb and echo effects. The set opened with the fantastic slow groove of “Beast and Dragon, Adored,” and then dove heavily into Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga for upbeat crowd-pleasers such as “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” “Don’t Make Me a Target” and “Don’t You Evah” as well as slower songs like “The Ghost of You Lingers” and “The Underdog.”
The rest of the set plucked from different parts of the band’s long career, dipping back to 1998’s Series of Sneaks for “Car Radio” and several songs from the stellar Girls Can Tell, including “Me and the Bean,” “Lines in the Suit” and “The Fitted Shirt.” But it was the final song of the night that elevated the show to instant classic status. On this tour the band had been showing exquisite taste by covering Wire’s “Lowdown,” but it took things to another level in Norfolk by breaking out The Smiths’ “Panic.”
Now that’s how you blow away the smoke and send your audience home happy.