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Spafford // Live @ Neighborhood Theatre // 11.30.2023

Photos and review by: Jason Robey

CHARLOTTE, NC — Road-warrior jam band Spafford packed the house at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte on Thursday. Originally planned as a two-night run, maintenance issues with the original venue forced the show to move and cut the second night. The band managed to pack two shows worth of energy into one, showing off their impeccable improvisational chops over two incredible sets.

Joe May’s Month of Mondays got the evening started with a funk-laden set of fast-paced rock n’ roll. Their short-but-sweet set got the crowd dancing from the start with “The Queen’s Wino,” from May’s 2023 solo debut No Party By That Name. Also known for his work in the popular North Carolina soul-funk band The Pluto Gang, Joe has been playing with this project around the region this year. The group kept an upbeat and light-hearted mood with a tight set of original tunes like “Ignoring the Feeling” and “Catch My Groove.”

Spafford blasted into their first set with “Double Time,” and from there didn’t stop for over an hour, seamlessly blending songs into one another. A cover of Steve Kimock’s “Ice Cream” led perfectly into a 20-minute exploration of “Pursuit of Madness.” The heavy guitar riffs of “America” evolved into a groove-laden instrumental piece full of rhythmic changes that eventually led into “The Waltz,” with the light show beginning to emerge, which would grow more intense in the second set. 

In typical jam-band fashion, the setlist had nothing to do with their studio discography, only playing two songs that have been recorded, and none from their latest release, Simple Mysteries. Since their earliest days, Spafford has been known more by fans as a live band, with unpredictable shows, keeping the audience on their toes. In just over a decade as a band, they have become masters of starting songs and then letting them morph into unique versions. 

The jam-heavy second set featured three more songs reaching the 20 minute mark, starting with “Plans,” which took a turn into island calypso themes. “When It Falls” showcased spacey electronic synthesizer sounds that perfectly complimented the spinning lights that filled the room. The hard rock riff of “Virtual Bean Dip” allowed for shredding guitar solos, leading into a short ending tag of “America,” before leaving the stage. 

After a short break, they returned for an encore of “The Reprise,” ending with a two-minute return to “Virtual Bean Dip.” Follow Spafford on social media for tour dates. 

Jason Robey
Jason has a deep relationship with music, as a performing musician, avid concert-goer and professional audio engineer. He has a passion for the local Phoenix music scene, as well as indie music from all over. He also enjoys writing, photography and anything that can make him laugh. Instagram: yitbos69 Twitter