review archive

Spiritualized 11th September 2001 Hammersmith Apollo

Ah, Mr Pierce, we meet again, knew you'd be back eventually, and with your all-new band line-up. They said you'd never be able to continue without those Lupine Howl geezers. Funny that, as I seem to remember you managing fine with the myriad line-ups of Spiritualized down the years. And how I've loved every star-scorching moment. In fact I've never really kept up with who's in and who's out since Will of Spacemen 3 left only to be replaced with Sean Cook who looked pretty much identical. We all know Jason Pierce is the only one who really matters.

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Tonight then, we're settled in our red velevety seats in the Apollo, home to many a heavy metal thunderathon in olden times. Onstage, equipment is draped in white dust sheets, like its been waiting there patiently for Jason since he last did the rounds with 'Ladies & Gentlemen…'

The lights lower and we sit waiting, surrounded by the spooky, wooshy sounds of 'Pure Phase' which continue as an undercurrent throughout the evening, resurfacing in between songs. Eventually the band troupe on, reading left to right across the front of the stage; two guitarists and a bass player standing face-on while Jason, discernible through the gloom by his glowing cig, tucks himself on the end, sideways to the audience, eyes shut throughout, as ever. Behind this front-line of six (and four) stringed splendour, we get keyboards, drums and percussion and then at the back, added extras in the form of a five-piece brass section and seven swinging backing singers. It's not the lush, full-on orchestra and gospel choir line-up of the ear-boggling Albert Hall gig, but then what is?

Cop Shoot Cop' pitches us straight into the world of Jaseman Spaceman, all spinning polka dot lights (like a torch shining through a colander, only better) and back-lit figures, then argh! a blast of brass and the stage lights up, before plunging back into flickering darkness. The song builds into an insane wig-out, as Spiritualized songs tend to do, strobes causing flashing zig-zags to appear in my peripheral vision. It would be good at this point for the band to indulge in that old pantomime trick of running around in exaggerated slow motion, to create the 'Bionic-man effect' that was always so popular (well, it was at Norwich Theatre Royal in the early 80s anyway) with the kids.
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This is what I love about Spiritualized. They can be the ultimate freaked out garage band one minute before lulling you with hypnotic beauty the next, before chucking in some spacejazz and blues without ever, EVER being prog or hippies or anything else people who don't have a punk rock soul might care to call it.

I get my first real spine-tingling moment during 'Out Of Mind' ('I think Out Of Mind is out of sight') from the new album. Jason's vocals sound the strongest I've ever heard them, less mumbling and more singing. It's a shame this set doesn't concentrate more on the new songs, rather than this through the ages selection. I've been joyfully glued to 'Let It Come Down' for the past few weeks, walking through the mellow autumn sunshine in the leaf-dappley park, marvelling at how London can sometimes get so beautiful, even during the head-banging 'The Twelve Steps'.

Happily, next we get another newie, 'On Fire', the stage aglow with shimmery orange light looking like, er, fire. It's a rampaging, hyperbolic version underpinned by a sound like a trumpeting elephant (no, really) and fizzing, fuzzed up guitars, before tumbling into a bass-heavy tango. See, this is another fantastic Spiritualized thing, the way their recorded sound is just a kind of basic blueprint for how the songs should sound live, where they take on lives of their own and start shuddering round the room and hurtling out through the roof.

'Take Your Time' (lights like storm clouds, before pulling into focus to become sets of spinning jagged shapes) has me searching for non-existent instruments amid the squall of noise. 'Let It Flow', all swaying 'woah, woah yeahs' from the backing singers, plunges into a breath-catching suspended moment of scrabbling white noise, hanging in chaos until Jason's voice plucks the song back down from the ether. There's 'Won't Get To Heaven (The State I'm In)' with great sliding-down-the-neck bass and deranged saxophone squealings, then a heart-wrenching mournful harmonica intro for 'Don't Just Do Something' before the band leave us listening to more pure-phasing swooshing through the speakers as we clap madly.

The band returns for a vicious, crackling version of that old Spacemen fave 'Take Me To The Other Side' bathed in black and white. Three girls run into the aisle to dance, barely having time to shake their hair, before a bouncer ushers them away. I contemplate how we used to dance to the Spacemen and Loop at early 90s indie discos. How did we manage to dance to that stuff?

Brass and backing singers return for a ferocious 'Come Together'. The sound tonight has been heavier than the Spiritualized of last time round, less drifting sweetness and more fuzz and thunder. Even the final 'Lord Can You Hear Me' (I still prefer the more desolate version on 'Playing With Fire' to the new album's gospelled-up one), though it starts as a lullaby, explodes into bright light and timpani-thumps with everyone belting it out in crazed celebration.

bathed in black and white
stars in yer eyes So, although I did see Jason walking down Brick Lane a few months ago, it's been a few years since my last Spiritualized fix. I'm thrilled to see them back! back! back! blowing my mind again. Long may it continue, and yah boo sucks to Richard Ashcroft (why did Kate get rid of Jase and choose him? You know you're all wondering that).
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