The Mic headed down to The Bodega to see London quintet Spector deliver an immaculate lesson in enthralling and entertaining a crowd.
Spector are a curiosity of the indie scene. Never quite seeming to properly make it, momentum ebbing and flowing through various stop-start career avenues, chance hasn’t been particularly kind to them. And yet, for my money, they are one of the most fascinating bands working today. There’s an apocryphal saying concerning cult rapper MF Doom that comes to mind: ‘your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper’, which encapsulates the idea of inspiring your contemporaries, but never necessarily attaining that success yourself. Spector are to guitar bands of the 2010s what Doom was to hip hop in the 90s. They simultaneously partake in, and deconstruct, all of the tropes of the pop guitar band, all whilst maintaining genuine hit songwriting. So, it remains a mystery to me why they have never crossed over into the mainstream, but I remain grateful that, thanks to this, I can see them in such a tiny room as I did recently.
A sold out Bodega is always an irresistible prospect for a touring band. When the conditions are right, with both crowd and artist giving the room all of their energy, the payoff is frankly magnificent. A very mixed crowd waited eagerly for Spector; all 250 people seemed equally impatient to experience their spectacle of a live show, despite a vast age demographic. Frontman Fred Macpherson sized up the crowd through his now-iconic thick rimmed glasses, and with characteristic understatement said: ‘we’re Spector, we’re a band from London, England, and this is a song called Bad Boyfriend’. And with that, we were off.
The last time I’d seen Spector, it was playing to a 5000 strong crowd at Truck Festival, and they fed off the energy of the tent magnificently – I worried that maybe they’d find themselves unable to translate that to The Bodega. Thank god, I was wrong. Fred took no time at all to establish that we should expect exactly the same energy from tonight, as he adopted the pose of Freddy Mercury à la Live Aid, legs spread in power stance, one hand on the microphone stand. Bad Boyfriend perfectly encapsulates the contradictions in Spector’s music; a first verse chanted back at them by everyone in the room, but which deals with the struggle between being an artist and being in a relationship: ‘I’m worse than a bad boyfriend, I’m a bad artist’. And yet, with Spector, it doesn’t feel incongruous at all. There’s an immense feeling of everyone in the room getting it, and this is the backbone of their live show.
'They simultaneously partake in, and deconstruct, all of the tropes of the pop guitar band, all whilst maintaining genuine hit songwriting. So, it remains a mystery to me why they have never crossed over into the mainstream'.
They follow up Bad Boyfriend with Celestine, a number from their first album that’s decidedly more earnest and less tongue-in-cheek than their later material, but it has the desired effect. By the time the chorus rolls around, The Bodega is surging with energy – there’s not a single body in the house that isn’t moving. Macpherson (and indeed the others) seem delighted with the response, however he never drops the persona, bar one or two dry asides to the crowd. His interactions with them are where Fred flourishes, constantly making eye contact, touching hands, issuing orders.
Halfway through early hit Chevy Thunder, he held the crowd in the palm of his hand, everyone aching for the return of the chorus. We were instructed to split down the middle and he sauntered between us, all the way to the back of the room, until we could wait no more. Just as he turned back to face the stage, the band let rip, and the entire crowd reduced to swirling limbs. His command of the crowd is unlike nearly any other front-person I’ve seen, while his sheer gall when on stage is beyond impressive. That’s not to say that the rest of the band are sub-par, far from it, simply that their function on stage is to ensure Fred is free to hold the audience’s undivided attention.
'His command of the crowd is unlike nearly any other front-person I’ve seen, while his sheer gall when on stage is beyond impressive'.
Despite their set having many an anthem within it, Spector aren’t averse to an emotional aside or two. Untitled in D, a cut from their 2018 EP Ex-Directory, packed quite the emotive punch, and it was impossible to miss the fact that most of the audience evidently had a deep emotional connection to it.
Overall, this is the genius of Spector. They manage to take apart the act of performing whilst still creating a performance that emotionally resonates. Macpherson is a lead singer to be reckoned with, and the rest of the band craft a perfect blend of indie and pop. Not to be missed.