There was a time when Spoon shows were defined by precision and rigidity, songs were assembled machinelike in real time, steel-straight bars of guitar notching into cog-like percussion.

It was methodical, airtight, flawless and, it must be said, a little dull.

Fortunately, that was not the Spoon who arrived at SXSW's Hype Hotel on Tuesday night (March 17). Any traces of workmanlike professionalism had been swapped out in favor of loose, sweaty momentum.

If the old Spoon were at times as stiff as a starched shirt, what stood out about Tuesday's show was the spontaneity and flexibility pulsating through the band. Opening with a strutting, almost funk-informed read on "Rent I Pay," the hometown rockers barreled their way through a set long on loose grooves and limber instrumentalism. The opening bars of "Don't You Evah" were tantalizingly stretched out, its bassline strutting through ice-like sheets of guitar. It recalled the coiled anxiety of Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives," Britt Daniel playfully teasing out the vocal melody. "Don't Make Me a Target" stalked and creeped, building to a rapturous finale and "I Turn My Camera On" simmered and popped.

In the past, it felt like the band members were simply playing alongside each other, but at Hype Hotel they seemed to be reading each other's cues, Alex Fischel adding flowing, harplike keyboard filigrees to the end of each phrase in "Inside Out."

And they were just as successful in the moments when they barreled ahead full-force. "Small Stakes," which on record is the picture of economy, was nervy and worked-up, the organ endlessly palpitating, Daniel's voice steady and driving, playing against the song's anxiety and propelling it to a frantic finale. "The Way We Get By" became practically anthemic, Daniel balancing on the lip of the stage declaiming the song's elliptical lyrics while the audience bellowed them back at him.

The whole set was breathless and ecstatic, the product of a unit fully comfortable with themselves and with one another.

Brought to you by Mazda, official automobile sponsor of #HypeON.

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