Into the Pit: 082: Spiritualized – Live at Royal Festival Hall – 12-October 2009

I’d never even set foot in the Royal Festival Hall before, so I was most impressed with it’s spacious layout, and even during the very, very varied “support” DJ set from Ashley Wales of Spring Heel Jack the sound was impressive.

ATP Don’t Look Back Series: Spiritualized
DJ Ashley Wales
Live @ Royal Festival Hall, London SE1
12 October 2009

The night was all about Spiritualized, though, and one particular time in their history, as the gig was simply the band playing their meisterwerk Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space in it’s entirety.

Arriving onstage ontime, thereabouts – all thirty four of them (including an eight-piece string section, a seven-piece brass section and twelve members of the London Community Gospel Choir) – there was no introduction or word from Jason Pierce, simply a nod to the crowd, the lights dimmed, and the glorious expanse of the title track filled the room. Just hearing that one song was worth the money alone for the ticket, as it was utterly, utterly sublime. Jason’s warm voice intertwined with the choir, the impossibly pretty melody left me speechless with joy as it proceeded to the climax of the track…and then we were teased with just the one slip into Can’t Help Falling In Love, which incredibly made the track all the more perfect (and, apparently, the original version of this track, including said lines, will be on the re-release next month. At last!). As the song closed, it took a few seconds for the crowd to compose themselves before erupting. The best live song I’ve ever heard? Quite possibly.

More amazing was that the rest of the show wasn’t overshadowed by this. The omnious, deep rumble of Come Together reached dizzying heights (again the Gospel choir helped), and I Think I’m in Love took things even higher – the euphoric call-and-response climax even more amazing live than on record. Following those three – that somehow took nearly twenty-five minutes, rather more than on record! – All of My Thoughts and Stay With Me felt like something of an interlude, not that they are bad in any way. It’s just that they weren’t as…intense, perhaps, as what came before.

Talking of intense, Electricity was astounding. With the big band – including three guitarists and two drummers – it’s proto-garage rock was very loud indeed. The thing is, when the freak-out climax came, it just got louder and louder, and the with the strobes going full blast too it was something of a sensory overload. It felt somewhere near what a tardis trying to materialise in your head might well feel like, and while it was exhilarating, I was happy to have it finish after a few long minutes.

Spiritualized Setlist:
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
Come Together
I Think I’m in Love
All of My Thoughts
Stay with Me
Home of the Brave
The Individual
Broken Heart
No God Only Religion
Cool Waves
Cop Shoot Cop

Out of Sight

Again, the interlinked Home of the Brave/The Individual (I can never recall where one finishes and the other ends) were impressive but slightly overshadowed by what came before – well, that and it took a couple of minutes for my hearing to return properly – but Broken Heart was as affecting as it has ever been. One of those songs that is clearly so personal that it feels like an intrusion to pay too much attention to the lyrics, it’s probably the darkest and bleakest this album ever got, as well as being by far the most emotionally affecting song on the album. So in some ways, it was a relief that the track was shortened a little (certainly it felt a lot shorter than the lengthy album version), although what we got was still awesome. Chiming bells heralded No God Only Religion, as it should, and the instrumental ebb and flow of this track reminded me hugely of much older Spiritualized material in this form (something I don’t think I’d ever noticed before, somehow).

On the home straight, by this point, the blissed out gospel of Cool Waves was the perfect way to ease our minds, before the epic Cop Shoot Cop began to unfurl it’s magic. It’s kinda difficult to describe the track, but somewhere along the lines of mellow, piano-based blues open it, before it erupts into a cataclysmic noisy section, returns to the mellow, repeat, then all hell breaks loose as everything is turned up to eleven. Not quite as brain-melting as Electricity was, but then, I was prepared for it this time. The close was even better, though, as through the cacophony it slowly became clear that the choir were chanting a wordless melody, and in time, as the chaos righted itself, it was a blissful way to close.

A standing ovation as the band left the stage was only right, and that pretty much only ended when the band were led back onstage for an encore. Quite how they could possibly follow the preceding ninety-five minutes was a tough one, and they didn’t do too much – the encore consisted simply of much newer track Out of Sight, which fitted in well and certainly sounded impressive. While I would have liked more from the encore, it was difficult to complain going on what we had seen before.

I’ve never seen Spiritualized before – despite years of meaning to – and in some respects I’m glad that I never did, as no other gig by them could possibly come close to this. Along similar lines, I’m not even going to try and see them again, either. I don’t want to taint the memory of this perfect show.

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