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Sometimes, expectation far outweighs reality. Take this evening for example. With a new album on the horizon and a glut of summer festival dates in the bag, the prospect of seeing Spiritualized in such an intimate setting as the Rescue Rooms - easily the smallest venue they've played in this city for a number of years - seems too good an opportunity to turn down. The previous afternoon's thirty-minute performance in front of selected invited industry delegates for BBC6 Music whetting the appetite somewhat, Jason Pierce and co.'s first full length set on home soil this year promising to be a special event.
Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to its billing. For starters, the choice of venue seems inadequate from the word go. Sound problems dog the first half of the set, both Pierce and long-time associate Tony "Doggen" Foster's guitars far too low in the mix. Then there's the fact this could quite possibly be the most uncomfortable gig DiS has ever found itself in. Already squeezed in tightly against the rest of the throng with little room to swing a mouse let alone the proverbial cat, claustrophobia beckons. What this also ensures is the "You spilt my pint" meatheads are out in full force, and on at least three occasions we're accused/warned/threatened of what might happen if a drop of warm lager flows over the top of a plastic cup again. Charming. Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking they'd inadvertently stumbled into an East Midlands Oasis fan convention rather than a Spiritualized concert. This evening at any rate.
Nothing going to plan, it's perhaps inevitable that opener and current single 'Hey Jane' sees Pierce's vocal interrupted early doors by microphone issues that from our innocuous vantage point look like it may have hit him on the chin and swung in the opposite direction to his face. Parity restored during the instrumental breakdown, it's moments like this that make such ventures worthwhile. The five-piece band and accompanying backing singers engage in a playful yet utterly compelling jam, far outweighing the song's already eight-and-a-half minutes on tape.
Of the new material given an airing tonight, the droning 'Headin' For The Top Now' stands out head and shoulders above the rest, its repetitive nature candidly reminiscent of Spacemen 3 at their most potent. 'I Am What I Am', co-written with blues legend Dr. John, also blends errant psychedelia and rock'n'roll alongside elements of traditional jazz intricately, creating a dazzling melting pot of melody and sophistication. The other two songs from 'Sweet Heart, Sweet Light' given an outing this evening, 'Mary' and 'So Long You Pretty Things', pass by casually, probably in need of a little more care and attention from a listener's point of view when said album is released next month.
At times it's difficult to appreciate much of what's happening on stage due to the constant battle to stay in one piece and as a result, formerly lamented gems such as 'Born, Never Asked' and 'Electric Mainline' from 1995's Pure Phase are met with squints of "Was it..? Wasn't it...?" semi-approval. Closing with a heavy take on 'Electricity' that segues into a brutal, noisy rendition of 'Cop Shoot Cop', we're left to consider our thoughts and reflect on what might have been. Or maybe those expectations were too high? On tonight's evidence anyway...
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