With little more than the lights dimming to indicate the band was about to take stage, Spiritualized walked on stage and went right into "Here It Comes (The Road, Let's Go)," which began an evening of music with no breaks or banter to break the vibe of the performance. The song's sleepy build was complemented by streaming beams of shifting colors and patterns of projections and lights, creating an even more otherworldly feel. Behind dark sunglasses, Jason Pierce seemed stoic except for his emotive voice and facial expressions, which revealed an intense emotional flow bubbling underneath.
Each song was an emotional journey and a true exploration of tone, texture and emotional coloring. As an evening of the band's music, the songs were chosen to present the prevailing concerns and private mythology of Pierce's creative output with the project. Two songs in, during "Hey Jane," with the words he invoked, words like "alight," Pierce drew upon one of his obvious influences in the Velvet Underground. As has been said by many critics of VU's music, the ideal state is to be alright -- at peace, free from the disruptions and crises that come from a cycle of highs and lows.
Pierce has found a way to make motorik beats work well with psychedelic music as a kind of sonic mantra to match his penchant for gradual musical progressions through hypnotic repetition. But rather than mere repetition, the band's various elements contributed to a sense of movement even as they revisited themes and ideas.
The soulful, bluesy, sometimes countrified, moments in the set seemed to reach mythical heights and depths that could have been predictable if it weren't enshrouded with an elevated emotional delivery that sounded very committed throughout, capturing the raw meaning of the moment. Yes, Pierce's singing seemed to draw from the stuff of dreams without his performance ever seeming detached.
While Pierce had a stoic presence, he also projected a vivid emotionality that brought the music into focus, even as it often veered off into the abstract at the end of songs devolved into intentional chaos. That is, except for the end of "Take Your Time," when the group came back together for a different permutation of the original melody. The sense of focus yet expansiveness made this set especially compelling, like there was absolute control over the sound, even as the band left enough leeway to keep things fresh and spontaneous.
At the end of the set, Pierce got up and applauded the crowd. It was his first acknowledgment of the crowd. Not that he didn't appreciate the enthusiasm of fans earlier in the evening, but he and the rest of the band were focused on putting in a moving, uplifting and riveting performance. After some further applause from the audience, Spiritualized came back on and did a sprawling and inspired rendition of Spacemen 3's classic "Walking With Jesus."
Continue on for Critic's Notebook and Setlist
Personal Bias: I've been a longtime fan of Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. I hadn't seen Spiritualized in close to thirteen years, and this was at least as great as that show.
Random Detail: Ran into Grant Netzorg of In the Company of Serpents at the show. He was also at the Metal Alliance show I went to on Tuesday and the Nick Cave show I went to last night.
By the Way: Spiritualized didn't perform the song tonight, but when I saw the group over a decade ago, it performed "Let X=X," and not many rock bands would cover Laurie Anderson. Spiritualized has always been and still is a little different, to say the least.
Spiritualized Bluebird Theater - 4/4/13 Denver, CO
Here It Comes (The Road, Let's Go) Hey Jane Electricity Shine A Light Lord Let It Rain On Me Let It Flow Rated X Oh Baby Freedom A Song Perfect Miracle So Long You Pretty Thing I Think I'm In Love Take Your Time
Walking With Jesus
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