Patrick Widdess Reports on Spiritualized- The Junction, Cambridge, 02 November, 2012

Junction 1, The

It doesn’t seem very long since Spiritualized released their landmark album ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.' I bought it a few months after it came out and those few months have somehow grown to fifteen years. Perhaps it’s because their style has changed little in that time, but their music still has an emotional intensity that few bands manage to sustain.

Spiritualized have undergone something of a rebirth in recent years. Following frontman Jason Pierce’s close brush with death from double pneumonia the band breathed again with the album ‘Songs from A & E’ and this year’s ‘Sweet Heart, Sweet Light’ sees them back to full strength.

The band are scheduled to play a two-hour set at The Junction which a friend remarks is enough for three songs. They are certainly not known for their three-minute pop songs and the opener, ‘Hey Jane’ is like a mini album on its own. Rousing rock n roll collapses into an extended break of reverberating guitar and spaced out synths. The song unites the band’s 60s alt rock influences with their own highly perfected sound. This is followed by the pumping psychedelic rock of ‘Electricity,’ the only song from Ladies and Gentlemen... in the set. They continue an almost unbroken succession of songs including everything from ‘Sweet Heart, Sweet Light.’ They may not have changed much but there are some fine additions to the Spiritualized song book like the melancholy ‘Too Late’ and existential rock out ‘I am what I am.’

It’s an intense performance with the five band members and two backing singers arranged in a semi-circle looking to one another and barely acknowledging the audience. Then again, on stage banter would hardly fit in with the minimalist symphonies and epic ballads that the band deliver, led by Jason, the lean spaceman, hunched intently over his guitar and gazing across the stage through wrap around shades. His soft words float like tears around the auditorium, the gospel backing singers add their sweet voices, the guitarists and keyboardist create impossible sounds.
‘Why don’t you dance to this beautiful music?’ One spectator demands as if it can’t be appreciated any other way. You might do a slow waltz to ‘Little Girl’ if there was room and ‘Freedom’ would complement the grace of a ballet dancer but you’d have a hard time starting a mosh pit at a Spiritualized gig. The front of stage security guy is practically dozing off.

It is a beautiful performance, though, which grips the stationary audience until the band leaves the stage for the last time, the final chords relaying over the PA and slowly disintegrating like a dying star. The two hours have gone quickly. Listening to Spiritualized seems to affect your perception of time. It must be all that floating in space.

Writer: Patrick Widdess