As I ascend the steps of the recently-refurbed Jericho Tavern, I’m cloaked in ambivalence about tonight’s Spector gig. On the one hand, I admit when I first listened to ‘What You Wanted’ I probably hit replay about seven times. On the other hand, there’s always that reticence to give yet another thumbs up to a band that already seems to have so much going for it (I was pretty well inoculated to The Vaccines hype last year, for instance). And what with Spector already being a BBC Sound of 2012 pick and garnering a spot on the Florence + The Machine bill this year, you’ve got to wonder, who’s working the strings here?
I end up standing next to a guy who saw the band last night in Manchester and was so blown away he travelled to Oxford to catch them again tonight. My expectations rise. I’ve hard the London-based five-piece put on a good n’ tight live show, but…well that’s a long way to travel for a band whose first album isn’t officially out yet.
OK, enough preamble. After a mellowy, echo-ey opening set from the one-man guitar and loop outfit that is David’s Lyre, Spector appear onstage, looking like they should have been tagalongs when Vince Vaughn and John Favreau took their famous trip to “Vegas, baby, Vegas!”–jackets, button-up shirts and neatly coifed. There is a lot of goodlookingness up on that platform that’s for sure. They open with the aforementioned anthem ‘What You Wanted’ and proceed to indie-pop-rock our asses off…for the next 36 minutes.
“This is the second time we’ve played here at the Jericho,” says frontman Fred Macpherson when they’ve finished their first song to clapping and whooping. “You really should have been here then,” he adds, “Considering it was like a third this full and the tickets were way cheaper.” Throughout the rest of their set, Fred continues to regale the audience with jokes and observations form their tour so far. He oozes so much infectious confidence onstage that if he could bottle it, he’d probably be able to use that to slick back his dark hair instead of whatever product he’s employing now.
But Macpherson has more than witty banter to commend him—during the band’s eight song set, he manages to croon and move enough on the small stage to make a grand spectacle of himself—and I’m not referring to his black-rimmed hipster eyeglasses. Don’t get me wrong; I think some people have placed the Jarvis Cocker crown on Fred’s greased back head far too quickly. But he definitely gets fairly Brandon Flowers-esque on more than one occasion, especially during their newest song “20-nothing.”
The rest of the band, Christopher Burman (guitar), Thomas Shickle (bass), Jed Cullen (synth, guitar), Danny Blandy (drums) are tight, too, wielding their various weapons effortlessly, and they seem to be having fun as the floor of the Jericho starts to rattle when the crowd gets loosens up and starts to jump and sway. During the manic, shout-sing, nostalgia-fueled choruses of “Chevy Thunder” I was a bit afraid some of us might fall through and land on some diner’s gastropub fare below.
Spector seemed to have mastered the formula of “leave them wanting more.” It’s all over so quickly. Just when I’ve gone and finally forgiven Spector their fortune, they hop off stage and the lights come up and that’s it. We’re all sent to bed without pudding–there was no encore.
The last song of the night, the one I kept humming well into the next day, was the slow-burning ‘Never Fade Away.’ I truly hope Spector’s beguiling presence doesn’t fade away under too many comparisons to The Killers or The Strokes or Roxy Music. No, Spector isn’t terribly original…but they are the furthest thing from terrible. You may very well find yourself liking them despite yourself.