Spiritualized / July 21, 2008 / Indianapolis (The Vogue)
The music world needs a Spiritualized. Jason "J. Spaceman" Pierce's nearly 20-year old group is simply the best band in the world at doing what it does, which in this case is an often dreamy, sometimeThe music world needs a Spiritualized. Jason "J. Spaceman" Pierce's nearly 20-year old group is simply the best band in the world at doing what it does, which in this case is an often dreamy, sometimes dissonant sort of gospel punk rock. That may sound a bit obscure, but Monday night in Indianapolis, Spiritualized showed why its music will leave a memorable legacy.
Pierce's songs are generally simple, in the way that good classic rock is, but his arrangements are where it's at. His most recent tour featured a nine-piece band including a string quartet, helping propel his modest melodies into a higher realm. For the summer club tour, the group has been pared down to basically a rock band (lead guitar, bass, drums, keyboards) plus Pierce and two backup singers.
And surely, this is the most pure lineup of the ever-molting Spiritualized; exhibiting the flexibility to tear through raucous material like "She Kissed Me (and It Felt Like a Hit)" and "Cheapster" (from 2003's "Amazing Grace") and then take things to a more peaceful place with stuff like the meditative "Shine a Light" and uplifting latest single "Soul on Fire." The latter proved one of the night's highlights, its lilting, anthemic chorus harmonized to the sky by the backing singers and Pierce.
The mournful "Sitting on Fire," also from new album "Songs in A&E," ventured into fresh territory, a high and lonesome sound reminiscent of both Neil Young and the Meat Puppets. But then chestnut "Take Your Time" brought things back to the classic Spiritualized motif, its circular riff dazing the listeners and slowly building toward a cathartic crescendo.
To bring the affair to a rousing, no-need-for-an-encore climax, Pierce and company presented a wall-of-sound version of the churning "Come Together" connected by rivers of guitar distortion and feedback to "Take Me to the Other Side," a song originally written for his pre-Spiritualized band, Spacemen 3.
All in all, a fully satisfying rock experience -- you get blues, rock, psychedelia, dreamy lullabies and gospel all in one night. Pierce is three years removed from a major illness, which hospitalized him for weeks and provided inspiration, titular and otherwise, for "Songs in A&E" (read: "Accidents & Emergencies" ward). As Monday night's performance illustrated, his recovery is a smashing success, and the re-emergence of Spiritualized is a blessing to us all.