Sunday, July 27, 2008

Live Review: Spiritualized @ 9:30 Club, July 25

Catching my latest (fourth? fifth?) Spiritualized show was quite the last minute affair. After dithering and back-and-forthing all day I finally decided to make the trek up 95 to see Jason Pierce AKA J. Spaceman and whatever incarnation Spiritualized was taking on this tour, and I cannot express how happy I am that I did.

Things got off to a ferocious start, with the vitriol of “You Lie You Cheat” leading things off. Pierce, in his dark shades, white tee shirt, and skinny, possibly acid-washed jeans, was joined onstage by a trio of black-clad musicians and a pair of lady singers, all in white. This carried over the sartorial theme from their set at Coachella, though the musicians themselves were 99% new. The new configuration allowed for much more rocking out, as the extended shredding in “You Lie You Cheat” demonstrated. Shifting gears immediately, and bathed in heavenly blue lights, Pierce and co. launched into the ethereal “Shine A Light,” hands down one of the best Spiritualized songs of all time. It was perfect, the sound, the lights, one of those impeccable concert moments. His voice had sounded good out at Coachella, too, but I really noticed how strong Pierce’s voice was. Whereas on the latest album, Songs in A&E, you can hear some wavering, some breaking, some breathiness, tonight his voice was true and beautiful, sturdy yet with the ability to reach levels of beauty few can accomplish.

“Cheapster” was next, Pierce and his band in fine fettle as much rocking was performed. Even Mr. Pierce was not immune to tapping his feet while strumming his guitar. Another of my favorite Spiritualized, the frantic roller coaster that is “Electricity,” was next, the guitars nearly out of control with wickedness. I’d like to add at this juncture that if you don’t yet own the incredible album known as Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, you probably should go pick that up.

The sparkling and lovely “Soul on Fire” was next on the list, Pierce tenderly singing and backed by the gospel stylings of his dynamic lady duo. This song, and indeed most every other song in the set, definitely sounded the better thanks to those ladies and their giant voices. The lighting was great, very stylized and elaborate, and at one point I had this very strange flash of seeing the band in vintage matching suits, on the Ed Sullivan show or something. It was definitely the best lighting I’ve seen in quite some time. Up next was another new song, “Sweet Talk,” featuring some ace guitar virtuosity.

We were all rendered rapt when the band began “Sitting on Fire,” my favorite song from new album Songs in A&E. It sounded even more soulful, with the addition of the ladies and the lack of strings that highlight the album version. A huge treat was in store for us next, with an acoustic guitar-laden version of the Spacemen 3 classic “The Sound of Confusion.” I love how Pierce isn’t afraid of revisiting material from his previous band, and reworks the song so that it could almost be a completely different one. He stripped away all the distortion and fuzz and what emerged was glorious. The rest of the hour and a half set flew by in what seemed to be the blink of an eye. Song after song was a masterpiece. End-of-set songs like the heavy “Death Take Your Fiddle” and classic “Come Together” were particularly masterful and mind-blowing. The man is a marvel, truly, and I felt privileged to be in attendance.

It’s been a pleasure seeing Spiritualized several times over the years, as this is a band that is so amorphous and changes so often you never see the same show, or band, twice. Even tonight, despite the recent release of a new album, Pierce chose not to have the new songs dominate the set. Through all the changes, one thing remains the same: you’re always guaranteed the gig equivalent of an out-of-body experience. Or, as Pierce sings in “Soul on Fire,” it’s like having a hurricane inside your veins.

The good folks at NPR recorded the show, which you can listen to here. They’ve also posted the setlist, but there’s an error: song #8 was “The Sound of Confusion,” not “Walking with Jesus.” And the photo is a shot I snapped with my phone, of the ridiculously tricked-out Spiritualized tour bus.

1 comments:

  1. Sound of Confusion and Walking With Jesus are basically the same song. It pretty much depends on what collection you have. Their singles collection lists it as Walking With Jesus, while Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to has it as Sound of Confusion (or maybe it's vice versa).

    Saw them at Pitchfork, seeing them again next month. Can't wait.

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