LIVE REVIEW: Spoon

IMG_8870

Spoon + Mike Noga @ Metro Theatre

Sydney, Australia, March 23rd, 2017

Mike Noga has stepped things up and fleshed out his live show with a full band that at times featured a triple guitar approach. The transition from solo performer to band leader mean he’s lost a bit of that Dylan-esque raconteur vibe but one can see where he’s taking it – giving the songs from his 2016 album King a wider palette and greater dynamics. It also allowed him to focus more on singing and imbuing his performance with greater physicality. A bass amp problem threatened to derail things but the band adapted and recovered well.

Spoon had the Metro at near capacity as they sauntered onstage and went straight to songs from the new album Hot Thoughts. The title track and Do I Have To Talk You Into It welcomed a stronger focus on keyboards but also showed how well the band have brought them to the fore in their songs without any great change to the Spoon sound. Space is the key to what Britt Daniels and band do so well. The rhythm section of Jim Eno and Rob Pope are its backbone, whether that was a fractured and (dare I say) funky approach or near-Krautrock/post-punk, dark and driving grooves as the guitars chopped and tangled with retro synth sounds.

IMG_2900

Spoon are astute rock deconstructionists, there wasn’t a guitar solo to be found all night, instead it was all about texture and accents, a sort of musical equivalent to pop-art collage if you will. They’re clearly enjoying playing together as a band, jovial and knowing smiles were exchanged regularly, fingers were pointed in recognition of each other’s playing and they found that sweet spot between locking the songs in tight and still sounding free-flowing and completely organic.

Highlights came in the form of a rousing I Saw The Light, the pulsing shimmer and grind of WhisperI’lllistentohearit and I Turn My Camera On, with the crowd fully engaged in a united front of bobbing heads and sung words. Though the second half of the set lost some of the initial rush of energy and conviviality that hung in the air for the first half, they carried it home like returning heroes of the alt-pop variety.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Okkervil River @ Metro Theatre, Sydney 18/10/11

by Chris Familton

Mike Noga was up first, playing primarily on his lonesome which suited the mood and opening slot perfectly. His songs were stripped back to their bare essence of guitar, voice, harmonica and on a couple of occasions some wonderful cello courtesy of The Gin Club’s Bridget Lewis. Noga was in fine form – chatty, cheeky and seemingly undaunted to be standing alone onstage without his backing band or the safety of his drum kit when playing with The Drones. This year’s album The Balladeer Hunter featured heavily with particular standouts being the ominous swell of M’Belle, the muscular folk of Ballad Of An Ordinary Man, the traditional Eileen and the influence referencing Piss On A Butterfly. Noga shares many vocal traits with The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard but he possesses less of a demented howl and a stronger melodic trail through his lyrics. To keep a growing Metro crowd relatively hushed with a solo set is no mean task and Noga showed he has the ability to pen engaging and poetic songs that can captivate an audience.

On previous visits to Australia Okkervil River have slowly built their audience, progressing up the ladder of venues on the back of an unwaveringly strong run of albums and a reputation for passionate shows. Tonight was no different other than it was their best Sydney gig by a long shot. The buildup for this tour felt fairly low key in terms of the media chatter and the lack of any real buzz around their recently released album I Am Very Far but from the outset they put the Metro on notice that they were here to perform with gusto, verve and a widescreen literate approach to indie rock probably only matched by Arcade Fire.

Led by the exuberant Will Sheff, Okkervil River focused the bulk of their set on the new album, taking the songs to another level of attack and release, drama and brilliant musicianship. Guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo is now firmly ensconced in the line-up and showed she is the perfect artistic foil to Sheff’s emotive stage manner. He is all passion, twisting body shapes and keening exhortations whereas she appeared to operate in a slower and more controlled time zone. She darted between instruments creating everything from noise to gentle shimmering chords without missing a note.

Of the new songs it was We Need A Myth which reiterated the strength of comparisons between Sheff and Jarvis Cocker both vocally and physically, the seductive disco-lite groove of Your Past Life as a Blast and the urgent dispatch of Wake Up and be Fine. The band have clearly expanded their americana-tinged indie template to now include more playful grooves and some ornate string and brass touches that gave the music its expansive quality.

Of course an Okkervil River show would be incomplete without some of the gems that have appeared on each of their records. Lost Coastlines was was eminently danceable and uplifting, Our Life is not a Movie or Maybe had the Metro quick clapping in unison and finally letting themselves cut loose and celebrate the music and the final song of the evening Unless it’s Kicks felt positively religious with that shuffling beat, chugging guitar and Sheff preaching positivity from the  pulpit. It was the perfect way to end a set that was brilliantly paced, sincerely delivered and felt like an endless treat. Long may the music of Okkervil River continue to flow.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

NEWS: New Mike Noga album and Australian Tour…

Mike Noga is back in the country after playing a string of dates supporting Band Of Horses in the US. To celebrate the release on April 1st (tomorrow!) of his new album The Balladeer Hunter he will be playing the following dates. I’ve been playing the new album a fair bit over the last week and it is shaping up as a great record…

SATURDAY 7 MAY – THE TOFF, MELBOURNE, VIC 

THURSDAY 12 MAY – JIVE BAR, ADELAIDE, SA

FRIDAY 13 MAY – THE REPUBLIC BAR, HOBART, TAS

SATURDAY 14 MAY – NORFOLK BASEMENT, FREMANTLE, WA

SUNDAY 15 MAY  – THE BIRD, NORTHBRIDGE, WA

WEDNESDAY 18 MAY – NOTES, SYDNEY, NSW

THURSDAY 19 MAY – CLARENDON GUESTHOUSE, KATOOMBA, NSW

FRIDAY 20 MAY – STEP INN, BRISBANE, QLD