SPIRITUALIZED: THE PHOENIX 05/05/2012
Earth to Spaceman. Come in Spaceman. It has been almost nine years since Spiritualized last played a proper headlining gig in Toronto and I was worried that we had lost J. Spaceman, aka Jason Pierce, to the darkest corner of outer space. Sure, there was that Virgin Festival appearance in 2008 and the acoustic show at the Phoenix in ’07, but those are mere appetizers compared to this main course. It’s not like Pierce was resting on his considerable laurels during his time away though. While writing and recording his last record, Songs in A+E, Pierce fell ill with double pneumonia and this included a particularly dire stretch where his heart stopped beating…twice! If that weren’t enough, in the gap years between Songs and the new one, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, the Spaceman had to battle a serious liver disease.
So, with all of that as a backdrop, it was time for Spiritualized to preach to the converted.
A search online told me that the band were playing the same set list every night on this tour, so it was no surprise to hear the opening chords to “Hey Jane”, the first single from the new album, kick off the proceedings. A song that is both catchy and grandiose, the eight minute opener set the tone beautifully for what was to come. The surprising thing about the set for this tour is how prominently the fifth record, Amazing Grace, features in it. In fact, four of the next six songs played, came from that album and we got to hear two of it’s most beautiful: “Lord Let it Rain On Me” and a particularly powerful “Oh Baby”.
Amazing Grace was treated with apparent indifference at the time of its release and Pierce still seemed to be struggling with how to follow the instant classic that was Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, released six years previous. While this tour plays songs from that record, it is completely ignoring anything off of Lazer Guided Melodies, Let It Come Down and Songs in A+E.
Speaking of Ladies and Gentlemen… no Spiritualized show would be complete without at least a few songs from one of the best records of the nineties. On this night we were treated to fantastic renditions of “Stay With Me”, “Come Together”, and acting as the encore "Cop Shoot Cop".
At points during the last two years, Spiritualized has played Ladies and Gentlemen...live in its entirety. Those shows included 100+ piece orchestras, gospel choirs, and spectacular light shows, but this night was always going to be about a five piece band and a pair of backing vocalists. I would argue it was just as powerful, even with only a fraction of the manpower. I did miss the light show though.
A song that always features in a Spiritualized live show, and is a personal favourite of mine, is the transcendental instrumental, “Electric Mainline”. What starts out as a slow run through a progression of notes on guitar, morphs into those same notes on guitar at warp speed with full band accompaniment. The effect is both disorienting and hypnotic. As if we had fallen into a black hole and didn’t want to stop.
Ladies and Gentlemen…I am floating in space! And I like it.
- Johnny Hooper