Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER
It’s not easy for a band to maintain its integrity in an industry that reserves gratification for mainstream success. Remarkably, over two decades, indie rockers Spoon [pictured, below right] have managed to avoid committing the penultimate sin of ‘selling out.’ Opening the show at BB&T last night, Spoon’s set swerved from 90’s grunge throwbacks to the delicate synth-pop tunes that populate their most recent albums. While their quintessential single “The Underdog” is crunchy and defiant, “Inside Out” off 2014’s They Want My Soul is plush and drifting. For as much as they have evolved sonically, the band remains true to themselves, sustaining their core attitude.
Nothing could have prepared me for Cage the Elephant. Frontman Matt Shultz [pictured, bottom] hurtled onstage dressed in a hazard suit, while flames erupted on either side of the stage. For every song, Shultz stripped off a layer of clothing to reveal another costume. For the rumbling “Cry Baby,” he swayed in a grey suit, jacket strewn across his shoulders like a cape, the brim of his hat shadowing his face. Watching Shultz perform is a hypnotic experience– he pitched his body around as if possessed, undulating snakelike or dragging himself across the ground. During the dark and twisting “Social Cues,” he danced through the crowd, waving a bouquet of sunflowers. The band’s fiery finale was “Teeth,” and by then Schultz had stripped down to just a pair of red satin shorts, screaming the chorus maniacally. When the rest of the band disappeared, Schultz strode through the arena like a god to Queen’s “We Are The Champions.”
Next up, Beck claimed the stage, opening with 1994’s iconic “Loser,” while a mountainous version of himself was projected on the screen. The transition to the pulsating “Up All night” was accompanied by colorful, cartoonish visuals. The set followed much of the same pattern, shifting back and forth between alt-rock classics like “Girl” to the pan-flute heavy “Wow” or the dreamy electropop “Dreams”. Beck was backed by a six-piece band, and for the sultry “Debra” he was joined by funky keyboards and a romantic saxophone melody.
Midway through Beck’s set, the show was paused due to a passing typhoon. After half an hour, Beck reappeared prophet-like in a white suit and fedora, joking they wouldn’t play their wacky experimental tune “Saw Lightening” again. The air was electric with energy, peaking at the finale of “Night Running,” a sulking track co-written by both Beck and Schultz. Their two voices rose over the wave of saxes and trumpets, blaring out into the night before fizzling out like a dying star. — MARIAH HALL
Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER