Edinburgh Queens Hall

[B]Jason[/B] still manages to sail through an elegiac version of [a]Spacemen 3[/a]'s [B]'Lord, Can You Hear Me?'[/B] before tumbling back into the avant-chaos...

It’s hard to believe that the two blokes slurring their way through an endless mumble of platitudes and limp gags were once the leading lights of the ’60s psychedelic mind-revolution.

Alongside Neal Cassady Kesey and Babbs piloted a bus called ‘Furthur’ across brain-dead America in 1964, dispensing drug dharma in every town they cracked. Tonight it’s a stand-up show for our two heroes and as far as anti-drug propaganda goes it couldn’t have been nearer the mark.

They bleat on about how rock’n’roll these days is too loud and you can’t make out the lyrics and all the usual cyber-bilge about the Internet, indulge in group-chanting and tell us to love Mother Teresa and Hitler (get me a baseball bat). Kens, the message is loud and clear – prolonged drug use obviously turns your mind to mush. Goodnight.

Things improve with the appearance of composer Steve Martland and the Spiritualized Orchestra. Two minutes in and Jason Pierce‘s seemingly inexplicable decision to dismiss most of his band starts to make some kind of sense. He’s flanked by a mass of players, dwarfed by banks of keyboards, xylophones, guitar amps and a choir. The stage is illuminated by rows of candles as the choir starts to chant, giving the whole piece the feel of a mass. As the ‘Ohm’ increases, Jason rises towards the mic for a magisterial take on ‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’.

The whole set is one massive composition, with Martland signalling sweeps of operatic chant and sax duelling. Much of it brings to mind some of the devotional music of minimalist composers such as Arvo Pdrt, but Jason still manages to sail through an elegiac version of Spacemen 3‘s ‘Lord, Can You Hear Me?’ before tumbling back into the avant-chaos.

It’s absolutely overwhelming, such a huge leap into unknown tongues that you really get the feeling you’re witnessing a momentous turning point. At this jaded, late point in the history of rock-whatever, the creeping spine tingle and howls of derision that accompanied Dylan‘s ’66 electric epiphanies is hard to replicate, but tonight something really clicked and stirred.

It looks like the old band just weren’t up to realising Jason‘s ecstatic visions and judging by the after-gig moaning from disgruntled punters, he might even shed some fans. Either way, the controls are firmly set for the heart of the sun and they’re taking off with or without your permission. Don’t get left behind.

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