Spiritualized, Crescent Ballroom, 5/19/12

Spiritualized Crescent Ballroom Saturday, May 19

See also: Spiritualized's Jason Pierce on Sweet Heart Sweet Light See also: Spiritualized's Jason Pierce on How Amazing The Liver Is

J. Spaceman didn't say a word to the crowd. No small talk, no nervous chatter. Wearing a white tee and white jeans, with his eyes obscured by sunglasses, he stuck to the songs, mostly songs from the band's brand-new record Sweet Heart Sweet Light, though the seven-piece band (sporting two backup singers in white dresses) stretched back to the band's early-'90s roots.

The band opened with a free-sound squall, and then crashed into the epic, VU-gone-Pentecostal "Hey Jane," Spaceman -- also known by his given name Jason Pierce -- lead his band through an hour-and-a-half set of gauzy drug sagas, bluesy hymns, and psychedelic ragas.

Fog billowed from the stage as scenes of traffic and the cosmos flashed on a white sheet stretched across the expanse of the stage. A small cross rested under the bridge of Pierce's Telecaster, a nod toward his dual obsessions: pharmaceuticals and religion. His nods to both are gorgeous: the aching "Lord Let It Rain on Me" and "Walking with Jesus" tap into the same secular gospel tap into the same rolling electric piano and white-boy soul boogie as the Stones' "Just Want to See His Face." ("I don't want to talk about Jesus, I just want to see his face.")

The odes to the former were gorgeous too. Sweet Heart Sweet Light was made while Pierce was undergoing chemotherapy, taking the kind of drugs that he didn't want. But older material, the sublime noise and fury of "Electric Mainline" and Laurie Anderson's "Born, Never Asked," and the gorgeous, swooning "Oh Baby" (from Amazing Grace) showcase that the spiritual fascination of Pierce is part of a larger theme: medicinal bliss, love, rapture, his interested in altered states.

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The centerpiece of the show, "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space," was such a moment -- with the crowd swaying in synchronicity as stars swirled on the screen and pierce crooned into a megaphone-sounding microphone. The backup girls cooed "Can't Help Falling In Love," and Pierce stridently sang "All I want in life's a little love to to take the pain away." The title track from the band's 1997 masterpiece, it was inspiring.

Cranking up for the end of the set, the band tore into "She Kissed Me (And it Felt Like a Hit)" and "Come Together." Pierce didn't say a word as the band walked off and returned to cheers. He continued letting the songs speak for themselves. When we spoke with in this week's issue, he said he didn't remember much about recording the new album -- but the way he seemed to live them onstage, it's almost hard to believe.

Set list:

"Hey Jane" "Lord Let It Rain on Me" "Heading for the Top" "Walkin' With Jesus" "Oh Baby" "Rated X" "Born Never Asked" "Electric Mainline" "Soul on Fire" "I Am What I Am" "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" "Mary" "Stay With Me" "She Kissed Me (And It Felt Like a Hit)" "Come Together"


"So Long" "Cop Shoot Cop"

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Spiritualized at Crescent Ballroom The Crowd: Mostly a mix of old-school fans; some Jesus & Mary Chain shirts, some fans brought in by the strength of the new record. Overheard: "I just wish they'd play 'Ladies and Gentlemen.'" [Band starts playing "Ladies and Gentlemen"] "Holy shit!" If You Are Cool Enough to Have Foxy Backup Singers Dressed in White: You should go for it. What Does it Mean Exactly: When there are two scalpers on bikes outside the venue and the show isn't sold out?

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