Spoon at 9:30 Club
For Spoon, selling out the 9:30 club is the best revenge. The Texas band was among the many alt-rock acts that were seduced and abandoned by major labels in the '90s, a trauma that led singer-guitarist Britt Daniel to write not one but two songs roasting the A&R man he felt betrayed him. But unlike other indie discards, Daniel and drummer Jim Eno -- the core members of a group that expands to a quartet onstage -- have worked their way back to a significant audience, as they demonstrated Friday night with an energetic, crowd-pleasing set before a full house.
Spoon's performance did offer some hints as to why a big-time marketing exec might have had doubts. Songs as catchy and direct as "Sister Jack," one of the evening's highlights, were rare. The set opened with a brittle, brooding thumper titled "The Beast and Dragon, Adored," whose refrain insisted, "I got to believe it came from rock-and-roll." In fact, many of the music's ingredients came from punk, funk and art-rock. Barrages of discordant guitar recalled Gang of Four, Daniel's falsetto suggested Prince, and the slippery melodies and wordy lyrics evoked Lou Reed -- although none of these resemblances was overpowering or long-lasting.
If Spoon was short on immediately accessible tunes and electrifying gestures, the band was well supplied with taut arrangements, ingenious eclecticism and jittery vigor. These may not be the stuff of multi-platinum albums, but they were enough for a satisfying, distinctive show -- and for Daniel to be able to thank the fans who used to come see him at much smaller clubs.
-- Mark Jenkins
Testament at Jaxx
Metalheads prefer the old Testament. The band, that is. The recently reconstituted and influential menace-metal outfit pummeled a full house at Jaxx Friday with its first stateside show in more than a decade.
Testament formed in Northern California in the early 1980s and seemed bound for Metallica-level success later in the decade. But such prosperity never came, and the band has been in disarray since the the1992 departure of guitar hero and onetime childhood prodigy Alex Skolnick. Now that he's back with others from the band's glory days, it's clear Skolnick has aged differently from his mates. While they have grown creepier-looking over time -- singer Chuck Billy, whose gargantuan body is covered by hair and tattoos, cuts as scary a figure as anybody who sings for a living -- Skolnick now exudes regular-guyness. He has a short coif and -- horror of horrors! -- no visible body ink or piercings. (For perspective on how odd this purity is, consider that Testament's lineups since Skolnick left the band have included musicians from groups with names such as Death, Obituary, Disincarnate, Cancer, Dark Angel, Sadus, Forbidden, Slayer and Evil Dead.) The band's hard-core followers are as ornery-looking as four-fifths of the band, which, layoff be damned, produced about 90 minutes of metal so heavy the CIA might want to prevent its export to Iran. Yet when Skolnick -- who while on hiatus from Testament composed big-band jazz for, among others, the Westminster Kennel Club broadcasts -- threw his trademark faux-classical licks lickety-split into the solo on "Thrown in the Fire," the fans cheered him as if he'd gotten "666" branded on his forehead. During "Disciples of the Watch," Billy, who in recent years won a bout with cancer that once had fans wondering if he'd ever screech about Beelzebub again, commanded the crowd to scream along with him lyrics such as "Obey! Or I'll burn you to that cross!" The moshers were too scared not to comply.
-- Dave McKenna