To be honest, I was never very much into mid-90s British pop music. In fact, I had never heard of Spiritualized, or its 1997 hit album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. But better late than never.
Jason Pierce (a/k/a J. Spaceman), the genius behind the original music, performed the entire album for perhaps the last time at a concert Friday night at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. A friend bought me a ticket and insisted that I go. I listened to the original record in advance. It reminded me a bit of the Moody Blues from the early 1970s.
What we heard at the concert, though, didn’t sound at all like the orignal album. The performance was distinguished by sophisticated, in-your-face lighting, long guitar, horn and choral rifts and bass so deep the vibrations made you think the theatre might be coming apart at times. Spiritualized went electric!
The 30-plus musicians, including full orchestra and chorus, did a truly unique show that took many in the audience to the very edge with the intensity of the lighting and throbbing mega decibel sound. In fact, Pierce said in a recent interview that he didn’t think the band that made the original album could do shows like he’s doing now. That’s true, because 13 years ago the sophisticated technology that made the Radio City show possible wasn’t even available.
Pierce borrowed from American rock and roll during the making of the original album, using New Orleans born Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) on the original record. It combined psychedelic soundscapes with lyrics about heart-rending loss creating one of the top albums of the Britpop era.
What became very apparent to me during the concert was the cohesiveness of the original material. Each song affected the others. That was special in the days of vinyl. One listened to an entire album, rather than download individual songs. It was an event, not just a song. If nothing more, Pierce made it clear at Radio City that his band’s songs are sonic collages that stand the test of time.