You know those bands who never come to Tampa? The bands who, for whatever reason, often skip Florida on tour? The ones who have you considering a midweek trip to Atlanta or Miami just to cross them off your life list?
Sometimes, those bands are worth the wait.
Textbook example: Spoon, who haven’t played Tampa in ages, and never as a headliner – yet who brought out a slam-packed, hot-to-trot Ritz Ybor Crowd Monday night. Bodies packed the floor all the way back to the bar, which would seem to leave no room for dancing, although that stopped exactly no one from trying.
"To see 1,500 people in a room in Tampa on a Monday night is pretty amazing," Spoon singer Britt Daniel told the crowd. "Thank you."
We’re the ones who should be thanking him. While the Austin, Texas indie rockers owed Tampa a couple of decades’ worth of material, this is a good time to catch them, on tour behind their great new album Hot Thoughts. The title track, jittery yet sexy, opened their set, followed by the feel-good funk track Inside Out and the rocker Do I Have to Talk You Into It.
Stylishly suited with his ginger 'do all amuss, Daniel worked hard for his Tampa faithful, often dropping to his knees an arm’s length from the audience and singing his heart right out. And there was a surprising amount of soul in his tall, twitchy frame. When he leaned down toward the crowd on I Saw the Light and the simmering I Ain’t The One, he had the look of a particularly compelling revival preacher.
Ballads were never Spoon’s thing, so they never gave the crowd a chance to stop moving. They played chugging, thrusting post-punk thrillers I Turn My Camera On and Don’t’ You Evah, both of which spotlighted Rob Pope laying down ridiculously infectious basslines. They played mighty pub-rock howlers like I Saw the Light and The Underdog, the latter of which saw the band dropping out while Daniel and the crowd sang verses together, backed only by drummer Jim Eno’s maracas. Even comparatively straightforward songs, like the piano-twangy Don’t Make Me a Target or the fuzzy, power-poppy Anything You Want (strong whiffs of Lou Reed’s Dirty Blvd. there), had people bobbing their heads and swaying side to side.
That this show felt much larger than its environs is significantly due to magnificent light direction that only enhanced, never overshadowed, Spoon’s music. On the sneering, Britpoppy Do You, the stage lights evolved from pulsing orange bars rendering the band into silhouettes; into a calming blue glow by the end. Stay Don’t Go got shimmering rainbow hues to match its chugging post-punk sound.
The show’s dance-heavy DNA, and Spoon’s long absence from the market, made you wistful for some of the other indie dance-rock bands that rarely, if ever, made it here over the past decade and a half – LCD Soundystem, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, the Rapture. And when Daniel started howling, as on encore tracks Can I Sit Next To You and Small Stakes, you can throw in the Hives or the Vines.
Adding to the blog-rock nostalgia was opening act Tennis, who would’ve fit right into the mid-2000s mix. They, too, have been long absent from Tampa Bay, although as singer Alaina Moore noted, they do have roots in this area – she and husband/guitarist Patrick Riley spent time here buying a boat and learning to sail, an experience that helped inspire their 2011 breakthrough Cape Dory.
"This place holds a special place in our hearts," Moore said.
Curiously, Tennis didn’t play anything from Cape Dory – although, to be fair, their sound has evolved quite a bit since. Their set was heavy on the hypnotizing blend of sweet indie pop, vintage synthesizers and sophisticated yet sensual soul that has defined their more recent work, including the thumping, red-blooded Origins; sweet, cooing Baby Don’t You; and Lesley Gore/Skeeter Davis-inspired swoonfest Modern Woman.
Tennis lulled fans into a deep romantic reverie before Spoon lit 'em back up. Even by the time they reemerged for the encore, fans weren’t ready to stop dancing.
"All right, we gotta come back," Daniel said. "It’s decided."
Why wait? Spoon is playing Orlando’s House of Blues Tuesday night. Go catch them while you can. For once, you’ll be able to say they came to Tampa first.
-- Jay Cridlin