The first time I remember hearing the name J. Spaceman was when Jason Pierce took the stage at the Bluebird Theater on Thursday night — the crowd went crazy, screaming his name as if he were the Second Coming. Taking the seat he would occupy for the remainder of the evening, in unassuming attire and a pair of aviator sunglasses, the creative force behind Spiritualized (and Spacemen 3 before it) seemed to have blown minds before he struck the first chord on his guitar. Obviously I needed a little more than simple presence to impress me, being I didn’t even know the dude’s name before people started screaming it out, so I held my tongue and prepared to be amazed.
The only reason I was in attendance for “An Evening with Spiritualized” is that I was run out of my house by a kids’ sleepover. Still on a high from the Nick Cave show the night before, I decided to check out this band that I knew practically nothing about. Sure, I had listened to Sweet Heart Sweet Light, and I had a passing familiarity with the classic albums, but Songs in A&E is the only album I’d really spent any time with. So I really was coming in as a clean slate — open ears, eyes and mind — all ready to be blown.
Unfortunately, the first two things which were immediately evident was that I was not the right kind of ‘high’ for the experience the Spaceman was about to serve up, and that the soundman was getting it all kinds of wrong. The latter being a huge problem for the first half of the show — ruining songs like “Hey Jane”, “Electricity” and “Shine A Light”. The ‘spacey’ psychedelic visuals were enough to take my mind off the mangled mix for a bit, but eventually I had to position myself further from the stage.
Once the sound found its balance, the show really was something else. I can honestly see what people love about this band. The run of “Freedom”, “So Long You Pretty Thing” and “I Think I’m In Love” was a perfect example of the range of noise, blues and beauty they are capable of. And the backup singers were as essential as any other instrument on stage. But there was also a lack of personality on that stage. I guess I might have been the only one who noticed this, as most of the crowd were shoegazing from the stars, but now that I’ve been listening to the studio versions of these songs, I have to say the live versions didn’t have much to add — except for maybe volume.
So overall, I will admit that the performance did provide moments of glorious sensory exploitation, and I really enjoy the music this band creates, but I regret to say that I never did see the light that the initial crowd response seemed to promise.
Here It Comes (The Road, Let’s Go Down)
Shine A Light
Lord Let It Rain On Me
Let It Flow
So Long You Pretty Thing
I Think I’m In Love
Take Your Time
Walkin’ With Jesus