LADIES AND GENTLEMAN WE DID FLOAT IN SPACE.
A couple of nights ago, I witnessed another of the wonderful don’t look back series of concerts. For those that don’t know, the concerts, organized by the ATP collective, function as a forum for bands (usually of the high quality variety) to play one of their most iconic albums from end to end. It serves as a perfect platform for performers to find and discover new and interesting subtexts in their classic works. With this in mind, it seems a perfect union when talking about one of Britain’s greatest bands; Spiritualized. 1997’s Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space is rightly regarded as a classic, a magnum opus to lost love and broken hearts, as well as significant side order of drug induced stupors. All the elements were right for a special gig. It didn’t disappoint.
Contrary to the prevailing musical trends, Ladies And Gentleman is expansive, challenging and unrivalled in it’s scope. It’s status in those intervening 13 years has only grown, while it’s contemporaries (I’m looking at you Be Here Now) have withered with age. The jazzy-esque nature of much of Ladies And Gentleman mean’t that there was huge scope to explore and expand on the album. The live setting bought new clairty (and ferocity) to the album. The highs and lows of the music came into sharper focus, the lyrics, although dominated by the pseudo wall of sound from the musicians where picked out and emphasised with an almost unnatural precision. But for all these points of clarity, the whole expereince was as close as you would get to feeling and seeking the rush, the high, the comedowns of the psychdelic experience. At times, the combination of strobes, free jazz noise (Making a lot more sense in a live setting) and choirs left you wandering around the farthest corners of your mind, yet four to five minutes later bought down to earth with a glorious glide. It was a disorientating but exhilarating experience.
The Acoustic Mainlines gigs from 2007 had also clearly left their mark on the interpretations, that gig (which was my first ever blog post back in 2006) made each song a potential tear-jerker, they also bought a beauty and fragility to many Spiritulized songs. So it was magical to witness the Gospel choir and orchestra soaring in the elegaic Cool Waves (And surprisingly, revealed itself as the probably the better album closer, Cop Shoot Cop is a leap too far – but still amazing) ) and the tearjerking (and super rare) airing of the ‘Elvis Mix’ Of ‘ album opener Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floting In Space. Sampling ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ by Elvis Presley, this was the original opening to the album until litigation from the Presley estate forced the change. It was joyous and redemptive expreince to hear it restored to it’s rightful place, Setting the scene almost perfectly for the emtional rollercoaster you are about to embark on.
But of all the songs, the one that REALLY stood out was the fulcrum of the album itself – Electricity. On the album, it is firestorm of feedback, dronal guitar lines and furious drumming, the live version stretched these reference points to their maximum, smashing ‘Electric’ Miles, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and MC5 together in an awe-inspiring five minutes. The electric Jazz elements made perfect sense in this setting, validating the (undervalued) contributions of Spring Hell Jack on the album. Add in a light show that would not have been out of place in 1989 and you can only start to imagine the strength of force that this song, and the gig as whole exerted on the audience.
Here’s the inevitable youtube video (WARNING. If you don’t like strobes, walk away now…)
With the last bars of Cop Shoot Cop ringing in the ears, the encore posed many questions, would the classic (and apt) Walking With Jesus make an appearance? Would, with a full gospel choir in tow, we hear the rousing and brilliant Oh Happy Day? Well it was neither, it was the rolling thunder of Out Of Sight (a personal favourite from the 2001 follow-up Let It Come Down) and then the most glorious curveball you could get at Christmas. A rendition of Silent Night, with brilliant slide guitars and choirs totally changing the standard to something that Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers would have been proud of. It was a truly cosmic and brilliantly surreal ending to the gig that helps define why Spiritualized, even after almost twenty years of making uncomprimising, beautiful and visionary music, are still as relevant and vital as ever. A true national treasure and an unexpectedly magical Christmas present.
As little bit extra in the stocking. Enjoy…