SPIRITUALIZED at Massey Hall, Friday, June 20. Rating: NNNN
How do you fit two decades of music into a one-hour set? Skip the stage banter, rarely break for applause and cherry-pick the best songs to play from each album. Even staying within those parameters, a band as prolific as Spiritualized can only make a tiny dent in their discography.
Wearing all white and a pair of black sunglasses, Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) floated onto the stage, picked up his red guitar and took a seat on an ergonomic computer swivel chair, where he remained for the entirety of the set. The lack of stage panache didn't hinder the performance though. The half-packed audience at Massey Hall already consider Pierce a rock star - he doesn't need to gallivant around to prove himself.
Pierce and his backing band (the regular synth player/bassist/guitarist/drummer lineup plus two mesmerizing female gospel singers) kicked things off with an epic version of Hey Jane, from 2012's Sweet Heart Sweet Light. For the first exhilarating half of the set, every song was bigger than the last. The second half felt noticeably more gospel than space rock. Lord Let It Rain On Me and Oh Baby, both from 2003's Amazing Grace, were epic in the cavernous building; the backup singers angelically juxtaposing Pierce's strained, emotive vocals and plaintive guitar strums.
But everyone was itching to hear songs from Spiritualized's masterpiece, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. (Especially those of us who missed Pierce's 2009 European shows where he played the album in full with an orchestra and choir.) And although he didn't treat us to the title track, he did play the gorgeous space-age slow-burner Come Together.