Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Spiritualized Royal Festival Hall 12/10/09

Going to see Jason Spaceman put together a faithful rendition of the rich tapestry that was this 1997 NME album of the year feels like a rare and special occasion. Albums are usually judged on their merit as a wholly satisfying experience (with no fillers), so there would be no room for anything less than perfection when it came to hearing this one live. If Jason felt the weight of expectation, he didn’t show it. Often during the show it seemed as if he were more part of the audience than the band, looking on and listening, hearing the rich, all-encompassing glory of it as performed by 33 musicians and singers. You can hardly blame him. It’s not exactly the kind of thing that you can ask a few musician mates to come over and bash out. No wonder then that at times he looked like he was trying to concrete every minute of it into his memory. He also looked curious to see how it would all pan out.

What made both the original album and this performance great is that they feel like a very complete experience. Lyrically, despair and elation are simply and pointedly described (‘love the way you smile, stay with me’); musically there are moments of translucent beauty and tortuous pain. ‘Electricity’ in particular, always something that exudes velocity and fight when played live, was accompanied by such a barrage of strobes and white noise that at one point I was convinced that I could hear the screams of devils in amongst the myriad layers of sound. It felt like a horribly delicious sort of madness. If that was a masochistic kind of aural hell, tracks like ‘Broken Heart’ were heavenly; emotional and touching, made spiritual by the glorious voices of members of the gospel choir who, clad in white robes, even appeared like angels.

If on each track there were moments where one section of the ensemble felt particularly skilful and virile (rendering others redundant), they played gloriously together on the final track before the encore, ‘Cop Shoot Cop’. A 17 minute long, swampy, trance like bluesy number on the album, the string section initially lulled us, the horns then kicked in with unannounced body blows and the choir shone a light out of the darkness that Jason’s regular band members had concocted from feedback and screech. Perhaps with a nod to his own pharmaceutical indulgences in an effort to ease the pain of a relationship break-up at the time of release, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…’ was packaged like medication with the instruction ‘Spiritualized is used to treat the heart and soul’. It’s not really like going to see any other band; when the music stopped, it felt a little like you’d been transported somewhere, that you’d gone on a bit of a journey and come out the other end reborn. Which I think is exactly how Jason would like it.

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