Tuesday, April 16

Spiritualized review – Jason Pierce twists a simple idea into elegant new shapes | spiritualized

It says something about Spiritualized’s latest album, Everything Was Beautiful, that even with nine musicians onstage, their live incarnation very much performs a bare-bones version of its contents. Frontman Jason Pierce more-or-less set out his musical stall in the late 80s, while in his previous band Spacemen 3 – its pitch is in an area bound on one side by garage rock and droning psychedelia and on the other by gospel and blues – and has essentially spent the intervening 35 years either augmenting it or stripping it down: with its cast of 30 musicians, its strings, brass and “chimes from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry”, Everything Was Beautiful falls into the augmenting category, alongside 2001’s Let It Come Down and the most celebrated Spiritualized album of all, 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.

Pierce’s single-minded approach to music has survived umpteen lineup changes and a couple of brushes with death, and is the stuff of which rabid cult followings are made: the venue isn’t packed, but the audience are seasoned. Pierce has barely taken his seat at the right of the stage before the first bellowed proclamation of undying love rings out from the stalls – “Jason I fackin’ love you!” – and the first time a song implodes into a wall of improvised noise, the wall of improvised noise gets a round of applause, as if it’s a greatest hit.

Spiritualized in concert at the Brighton Dome. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Pierce’s wilful embrace of limitations can occasionally seem, well, limited – the scattered yells of recognition that greet the opening of A Perfect Miracle might come from fans of Spiritualized’s 2018 album And Nothing Hurt, but they might equally be from people who think they’ve started playing the title track of Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, to which it bears an unavoidable and presumably knowing resemblance, begging the question of whether repeating yourself so obviously is justified if you’re doing it deliberately.

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More regularly, you’re struck by Pierce’s continued ability to twist an essentially simple idea into new shapes. The four tracks from Everything Was Beautiful are among the best things they play: The A Song (Laid In Your Arms) builds and builds into a giddily euphoric rush; the ferocious dynamic shifts of Let It Bleed (For Iggy) don’t need the album’s orchestration to make you catch your breath.

In fact, Spiritualized’s live incarnation’s ability to make up for the absence of the strings and horns in other ways is hugely impressive. For a band whose frontman remains in his trademark sedentary position throughout, they’re a remarkably nimble-sounding band, executing some genuinely astonishing handbrake turns: when the ferocious din at the end of She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit) segues into the hushed Shine a Light it feels not unlike being on one of those fairground rides that hoists you to a great height then suddenly plummets downwards. At moments like that, you feel Pierce could go on twisting his essentially simple idea into new shapes for the rest of time.


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