Spiritualized released their highly-anticipated ninth studio album, Everything Was Beautiful, last month to a chorus of rave reviews. The LP was previewed over the six-month run-in with three singles, ‘Always Together With You’, ‘Crazy’ and ‘The Mainline Song’. With their diverse emotional coverage and musical direction, the singles left much to get excited about. Upon its full release, the album truly delivered.
In an 8.9/10 review, Far Out described the album as “yet another kaleidoscopic journey through the psyche of [frontman] J. Spaceman. As usual, he holds no emotions back and takes us on a cosmic journey through melancholy, anxiety and elation as he shares the next entry in his discographic diary.”
Off the back of such an emphatic release, I was chomping at the bit to catch Spiritualized live on their supporting tour this spring. I was fortunate to be able to grab a seat at the concert at the Brighton Dome on Saturday, April 30th, and can safely say that the experience dreamt up by Jason Pierce duly delivers.
Upon entry to the magnificent venue, the auditorium was still yet to fill out. We took to our seats just in time to see the supporting act, British saxophonist John Butcher, take to the stage. Butcher, for those unaware of the virtuoso, is one of the leading figures in the world of avant-garde free improvisation. I had heard of Butcher before the performance but didn’t know exactly what to expect. When he began playing, all you could hear was the faint rushing of wind as he blew onto the reed. Gradually, vibrations hummed and reverberated around the auditorium showing off the venue’s impressive acoustics. Butcher then brought in his fingerwork and dazzled us with improvised scales and melodies. After performing two lengthy pieces, Butcher left the stage with a warmth of applause in his wake.
After a 20 minute wait, the members of Spiritualized entered the stage and took their places. Once they were settled, Jason Pierce (J. Spaceman) walked on to an elevated level of applause and took his usual position seated at the right of the stage facing to the left. Without a word, the band launched into the opening track of the set, ‘Hey Jane’, from the 2012 album Sweet Heart Sweet Light. The song was the perfect entry to the performance with its tumbling pace that was built into an intense crescendo. It was accompanied by strobe lighting that flickered with increasing frequency with the music before a dramatic tempo change into the next song, ‘She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)’ from 2003’s Amazing Grace.
Next, before the first outing of new material, they played the enduring beauty that is ‘Shine a Light’ from the 1992 debut LP Lazer Guided Melodies. The performance was elevated with the arresting vocal support of a three-piece gospel choir who added something powerful and saccharine to proceedings. During the song, I saw a member of the audience in floods of tears, which is a testament to the deeply moving quality of some of Pierce’s more sentimental arrangements.
The first track to be played from the new album was ‘I’m Coming Home Again’. Again, the band played the atmospheric number in perfect synchrony, building it up into a blinding strobe-infused crescendo. The noise of the high point was cut with style leaving only the gentle and twee opening of Pierce’s vulnerable voice singing ‘A Perfect Miracle’, the opening track from And Nothing Hurt.
With no hesitation, Pierce flicked through his lyric book as they brought a new flavour to recordings from a good spread of their nine albums. Much of the beauty behind Spiritualized’s music is in its diversity; they have the power to have the audience fighting tears, and then a moment later, they could have everyone rocking out to ‘Come Together’ from the seminal 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space – and that’s just what they did.
Other highlights from the remainder of the set were, ‘I’m Your Man’, ‘Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go’ and ‘Let It Bleed (For Iggy)’. After playing 15 tracks, the band depsrted the stage. They left five intense minutes of cheering and applause before returning for the encore, where they played the atmospheric and sentimental ballad, ‘So Long You Pretty Thing’, the perfect end to a perfect evening.
The concert was an unmitigated triumph; each and every musician on stage put in a flawless display that quite honestly took my breath away at times. The reaction from the crowd reflected the strong adoration Spiritualized garner from their devout following; from the young lady sobbing in the next row to the old-timer wearing a retro Spacemen 3 T-shirt toward the front punching the air throughout ‘Come Together’.
Spiritualized full setlist:
- ‘Hey Jane’
- ‘She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)’
- ‘Shine a Light’
- ‘I’m Coming Home Again’
- ‘A Perfect Miracle’
- ‘I’m Your Man’
- ‘The Morning After’
- ‘Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go’
- ‘Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)’
- ‘Let It Bleed (For Iggy)’
- ‘The A Song (Laid in Your Arms)’
- ‘Soul on Fire’
- ‘Come Together’
- ‘Sail on Through’
- ‘So Long You Pretty Thing’ (Encore)