show recap: spiritualized
  • TUESDAY, AUGUST 03, 2010

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On paper, Radio City Music Hall would appear to be an ideal venue in which to hear Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, the undisputed classic album from Jason Pierce, aka Spiritualized, performed in it's entirety. An epic ode to true love lost and the desperate effort to recover it to diminishing returns (which, as anyone with even a passing knowledge of Pierce's personal history and ethos could attest, could just as easily, and not incorrectly, be read as an ode to drug use), the album is a big-budget space-rock opera, and is a truly transcendent listening experience (especially if you're really... hiiiiiigh!). This particular combination of performance and venue seemed a natural bridge for that weird dichotomy between the unpredictability and interactivity of a rock concert and the respectful, hushed awe of a theater performance.

Pierce is sitting with his guitar off stage right when the curtain at Radio City is raised. He is facing a small army of supporting musicians, which by my count included two drummers, five horns players, fourteen violinists, and at least twenty choir members. Wasting no time, they tore into the title track, which lifts Pachelbel's Canon in D Major and gradually adds several harmonizing vocal tracks, and tonight even included a brief detour into Elvis territory. (It will be worth a search on Youtube when the video inevitably surfaces.) "Come Together" and "Electricity" are straight-up Primal Scream-ish rockers, and "I Think I'm In Love" and "Stay With Me" put one in mind of early Verve. Not surprisingly, they all KILL live. Seventeen-minute album closer "Cop Shoot Cop" provided enough feedback for any noise aficionado, and was another highlight. Only "Broken Heart," the emotional centerpiece of the album, felt oddly underserved; like the band simply ran out of steam and sputtered out early. Put it this way: it wasn't the tears-streaming-down-my-face moment of catharsis that it is on record, and I am NOT ashamed to cry in front of strangers!

Otherwise, you could not ask more a more technically proficient performance, or for a better-sounding venue; even if you occasionally wished you could bang your head, or air guitar, or even stand up without irritating everyone in the vicinity. One might also have wished for just a bit more theatricality &mdash it is easy to imagine what Bowie might have done with material this good &mdash but then aesthetics beyond extended drug gags have always seemed past Pierce's reach. However, while I run the risk of sounding overly critical, it must be said it was an excellent show, one of the best I've seen so far this year, and hopefully it will earn Spiritualized some long overdue respect in this country. -Adam Kirschenbaum

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