There was a time in ‘97 when I accidentally stalked Spiritualized. I knew Jason Spaceman Pierce from his trips to Toronto and shared friends in drum n’ bass duo Spring Heel Jack (whose John Coxon is Spiritualized’s long-time guitarist). When they played the “highest” gig in the world, at the CN Tower, I pitched the story to Exclaim Magazine in Toronto, and the editor agreed. He then promptly took my pass for himself instead. (Bastard).
After a couple of Toronto gigs, and a few chats, I found myself in Copenhagen when the band happened to be playing. I went along and ended up backstage drinking wine. A month later, on a 24-hour business trip to San Francisco, the band were playing the Fillmore. I ended up backstage drinking wine.
In the past 20 years, I’ve seen Spiritualized 8 times, going back to ‘92 and Lazer Guided Melodies, and ran into Spaceman yet again in London at a joint Primal Scream/Nick Cave/Spiritualized bill in 2005. He smiled when I reminded him of my accidental stalkerage of the past.
So here I am in 2012 and find myself gearing up to hang out with Jason again in Vancouver. But the interview’s cancelled; Spaceman needs to rest, apparently, and it’s understandable. Spiritualized’s latest album was mixed over a year during which the poorly Jason was being treated with experimental chemo-based medication for a liver disease he found out he had, which came a year or two after being hospitalized for double pneumonia and nearly dying twice. Okay, Jason, I’ll afford you your nap.
The show starts at the Rickshaw early – Spaceman, with a tanned face and whitesheet skin everywhere else comes on stage, clapping at the audience, flanked by his guitarist Doggen, a drummer, keyboardist, bassist and two backing singers. “Hey Jane” starts off as full as you’d expect from the latest album: big, rich, rocking. It’s typical Spiritualized, and segues nicely into “Lord Let It Rain on Me”. Then “Walkin’ With Jesus” (a song from Spaceman’s earlier Spacemen 3 era) happens partway through, and it’s pure bliss.
But the next bulk of the show is sleepytrippy, not quite as transcendental as former shows, and a bit slow. Of course, “Electric Mainline” and the epic “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” cut through the lag, but this is not the best I’ve seen of Spiritualized. The backup singers are robotically swaying, the band seem mid-toured out, and Jason’s noodling. It sounds okay enough but there’s no connection.
But then it happens: “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)” starts to ramp things up and then BOOM! It’s “Come Together”, an absolute monster of a song that closes out the set before the encores “So Long You Pretty Things” and “Cop Shoot Cop”.
And the end becomes the beginning and the ninth Spiritualized show closes with epic, just like we all expect them to. And while I mightn’t have ended up backstage with the band drinking wine, again, I’ll raise a glass to ‘em anyway. \m/