Concert Review: Spoons Arias & Symphonies 30th Anniversary, Toronto, Revival Bar, November 30, 2012

When the Spoons announced a show dedicated to their 1982 classic album, Arias & Symphonies (Ready Records, 1982), it immediately made sense to thousands of fans who still follow the band, myself included. You see, Arias & Symphonies is not just an album but it is also a milestone. For those of us who grew up in Southern Ontario in the early 1980’s, our musical awareness sprang from a number of influences, the deepest of which was this album by a band that was ‘of us’ and, at the same time, from the ‘otherworld’ of modern music. In a previous post, I even argue that Arias was the best album of the 80’s.

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The Spoons delivered a solid show musically that Friday night in Toronto. Joined by original recording members, Rob Preuss and Derrick Ross for select cuts from the album, the band was tight and did their repertoire justice. Preuss was flawless on the intricate “Blow Away” and even used a vintage Roland 808 drum machine for the show. Gord Deppe and Sandy Horne interplayed as adeptly as ever, still masters of their voices and instruments. The current keyboardist and drummer, Casey MQ and Chris McNeill, were in their stride as well. McNeill in particular reminded us how vital a strong drummer is to the Spoons’ music and how a good drummer can complement, rather than compete, with the signature programmed beats in their music.

The most remarkable thing about that night however, was not the music, great as it was. It was the chemistry of the crowd, the band, and the event. Spoons fans are a loyal bunch. We are in our 40’s and 50’s now (although a younger set was on hand as well). We have “grown up,” leaving to nostalgia our youthful memories of early Spoons concerts in small spaces and summer nights in the Ontario Place Forum. Those “old emotions” well up pretty fast at a Spoons show. Suddenly, we are transported, not to our past per se but to a place where music is really really important and seeing it performed live is bliss. There is a unity of sorts when you’re among true fans who were imprinted, like you, when this music found them so many years ago.

This is not to say that the Spoons are purely about retro-music. Their latest release, Static in Transmission (Universal Canada/Fontana North, 2011) is a progressive album with a refreshed Spoons sound that makes it both contemporary and authentic. Read my short review of that release here.

Leaving the venue that night, I was utterly satisfied with the show. My favourite songs were played. The band had some fun with an alternate arrangement of “Tell No Lies” and entertaining tom-tom solos on “Walk the Plank.” Several fans even got to meet and greet the band before the show. But the most important part of why I was feeling good on that cold walk back to my car was the camaraderie I had felt with a roomful of strangers for two blissful hours.

Setlist

1. Trade Winds; 2. Arias & Symphonies; 3. Smiling in Winter; 4. One in Ten Words; 5. No Electrons; 6. Nova Heart; 7. Walk the Plank; 8. Blow Away; 9. You Light up; 10. Escape with You; 11. Old Emotions; 12. Tell No Lies; 13. End of Story; 14. Romantic Traffic; 15. Nova Heart (Singularity mix); 16. Rodeo; 17. The Rhythm; 18. Symmetry

Players

Gord Deppe, Guitars/Vocals; Sandy Horne, Bass Guitar/Vocals; Chris McNeill, Drums; Casey MQ, Keyboards; Rob Preuss (special guest), Keyboards; Derek Ross (special guest), Drums.

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