This could be one of the tours of the year.
Jason Pierce is sitting down. He’s on a stool, stage right, where he usually stands. And it’s very unnerving.
This is the first night of his back-to-basics tour. This is the tour that will see choirs, strings, brass sections and kitchen sinks – all the overblown extravagances of last album ‘Let It Come Down’ – replaced with no-messing garage rock. Gone are the violas, harps and oboes, expunged in favour of the sort of glorious drone Pierce perfected in the ’80s with old band Spacemen 3 and replicated on new album ‘Amazing Grace’. Still, there is no precedent for sitting down at a garage rock show. It jars.
It’s a crying shame, because Spiritualized have never sounded better. This is a run through old hits from early days – the white incessant drive of ‘Electric Mainline’, the loving Velvets pastiche of ‘Run’ – and through the choice cuts of ‘Amazing Grace’. There is no flab, no filler. Throughout his career, Pierce has been trying to write the perfect hymn. Every album has a ‘Broken Heart’. Tonight, ‘Hold On’ has the power of a classic spiritual. It’s tender and heartbreaking, with Pierce’s cracked vocals ready to falter at any minute. You could easily hear soul shouter Solomn Burke giving it some treatment. And Burke likes sitting down too – except he weighs 20 stone and rests on a reinforced throne.
It also looks dazzling. Tonight, light pulses, whirls and reaches a suffocating climax with set-closing ‘Smile’ – a dramatic mixture of strobes and white noise. It’ll be hard to beat that at any show this year. But Pierce’s refusal to get on his feet, like he’s fighting the sheer force of his own creation, limits its power. This isn’t petty bellyaching. Pierce is one of the most important songwriters Britain has. This could be one of the tours of the year. He’s just got to stand up and face the music.