At all times, Jason silently conducts the band, eyes barely open, completely lost in this glorious sound...
The last time that Spiritualized played live, the group were riding high off the back of their most successful album ever. ‘Ladies And Gentlemen…’ was probably the best British rock album of the 90s, a work of outstanding beauty that finally elevated Spiritualized into the mainstream. It helped that the gigs they played to promote that record were routinely breathtaking. Since then, though, a lot of things have changed.
Last year, Jason Pierce famously sacked the seemingly perfect group he’d built up around him. They went off to form Lupine Howl, grumbling that Spiritualized had had “the engine ripped out of it”. Pierce, meanwhile, just disappeared into the studio to create ‘Let It Come Down’ without passing comment. Tonight, however, he answers his critics in suitably emphatic style.
Billed as “An Evening With Spiritualized”, this is the third date of their first tour for two years, and it takes place in an old converted cinema in the centre of Dublin. Dressed in new gold trainers and an expensive sweater, Pierce looks well and completely at ease – obviously unfazed by the prospect of playing with his new band. If something’s wrong, he’s not showing it.
The band looks much as it did before, albeit augmented by a eight piece brass section. There’s still the same keyboard drone running throughout the set and Pierce remains, as usual, in the shadows stage left. They start with an abbreviated version of ‘Cop Shoot Cop’ complete with the kind of free jazz freak out that Pierce seems to have left behind on ‘Let It Come Down’. It’s followed by a slightly perfunctory take on ‘Electricity’ and then the first new song of the night – ‘Out Of Sight’. Stripped of the strings and gospel choir, the song doesn’t have quite the same impact as on the record and, for a minute, we’re worried that this might not be the glorious return we’ve been hoping for. Luckily, from here on in, things start to improve considerably.
A stunning run through of the instrumental ‘Born Never Asked’ from their ‘Pure Phase’ album quickly merges into a frantic ‘Electric Mainline’. Suddenly Jason’s singing ‘Shine A Light’ and the new band come into their own, in a big way. The sound of nu-Spiritualized may be less otherwordly and druggy than the Spiritualized of old, but it’s just as potent, especially when they veer into a jagged ‘On Fire’ and then plough straight into ‘No God Only Religion’. At all times Jason silently conducts the band, eyes barely open, completely lost in this glorious sound.
Amazingly, the show gets better from here. Old favourite ‘Take Your Time’ segues into ‘Take Good Care Of It’ and then ‘Let It Flow’ arrives sounding twice as powerful tonight than it ever has done before. Perhaps the best track on ‘Let It Come Down’ is ‘Don’t Just Do Something’. Here, Spiritualized strip it of its orchestration and play it stripped to the bone. It’s fantastic. As is, the one real surprise on tonight’s setlist – a brilliant version of Spacemen 3’s ‘Take Me To The Other Side’.
After playing ‘Come Together’, the band leave the stage only to return for an encore of another Spacemen song. There was criticism levelled at Pierce by monthly music critics for re-recording ‘Lord Can You Hear Me’ for the latest album, but now grown men are literally weeping at the awesome sound coming from the stage. The new engine seems to be working just fine.