Gawky, drably-dressed, and more well-oiled than fed, Phoenix are that rare band who position themselves so completely behind their songs that they become nearly invisible. Thomas Mars's charisma is in large part routed through his voice, but tonight his smile was as bright as any of the stage lights — and the effect was that the entirety of their set felt like one big group hug. This was especially so during their not-quite-encore-encore, which found Mars bounding off the stage, up the aisles, and atop the seats toward the back of the orchestra, leading the crowd in an epilogue of "1901" 's cathartic/mantric calls of falling, falling, falling, fall-ing. . . A satisfying surpassing of expectation for the devoted, and a rousing bitchslap for the sleepers, it was hard to fathom why Phoenix wasn't topping this bill.

And from the looks of it, the members of Spoon might have been wondering the same thing. To this day, I've never witnessed a sloppy Spoon show, but for the first time in my long, romance with the Austin four-piece, their unflappable tidiness may have been more of a de facto buzzkill than a trusty trademark.

Old favorites like "Small Stakes" and "I Turn My Camera On" were met with frenzied bouncing, as the crowd tried to revive among themselves the quickly-dissipating frenzy brought on by the Phoenix set. But recent examples like "Don't Make Me a Target" and (encore feature) "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb" (both from 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga) seemed wholly unadventurous in performance — their safe landing ensured with every tame takeoff. The sparse soulfulness that gave Spoon such distinction through the last decade sounded strangely empty at the Orpheum, laxly reverberating off the back of the balconies, and collecting in a swirl of conflicting echoes.

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  Topics: Live Reviews , Phoenix, Phoenix, Indie Rock and Indie Pop,  More more >
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