The guy working security at the Fillmore Wednesday night gave all the photographers in the pit the fingers. Two. Letting them know that rather than the usual three songs, they’d only be allowed to stay there and shoot the first couple. Coming from some bands this sort of announcement would be enough to send the photogs into a hurried panic, but as Spiritualized set the pace with “Hey Jane,” the almost nine-minute rocker that opens latest album Sweet Heart Sweet Light, it was clear the show wouldn’t be so rushed.
It also set a theme for the night. “Hey Jane, when you gonna die?” the band – with extra soul coming from a pair of backup singers – sang over and over. Death isn’t a new topic for Spiritualized, a group (largely Jason Pierce) that’s always combined psychedelic self-realization with gospel influenced calls for salvation. But with Sweet Heart Sweet Light, an album that came about as Pierce struggled with life threatening pneumonia and a degenerative liver disease, the topic seems to have a new gravity.
There was a fairly logical thread early in the set as the band transitioned across albums thorough “Lord Let It Rain on Me,” “Headin’ for the Top Now,” and “Walking With Jesus.” Midway through “Walking” – a bit of rhythm and blues accentuated with harmonica and a whirling organ worthy of a wildly enthusiastic church revival or Allman Brothers concert on Venus – the music got quieter, slower, and darker. Pierce’s vocals were in focus and as he sang “I know I’ve done wrong but I could have done worse.” The song dates back to the Spaceman 3 days, and the line now comes with a lot of weight.
At one point, relatively early in the set, during “Rated X” the person standing behind me told their friend, “This show is kind of boring me to death.” Minority opinion. Even after Spiritualized played their arguably most well-known song, “Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space,” having already played for a reasonable amount of time (outside of jam band standards,) the sold out crowd was still thick.
The closer for the night was “Cop Shoot Cop.” It certainly runs on, from a strolling piano groove with light guitars and drums, to a raging wash of guitar and drums with light piano, effectively exhausting the audience’s attention span, so that when it was over the lights were ready to come on.
But for me the real goodbye was “So Long You Pretty Thing,” the final track off of the latest album. Not (just) because of my vanity, but because it – as tenderly beautiful as anything Pierce has put out – is also a reminder that every time you see a band could be the last.
Ugh, that’s depressing, but I guess that alternation between desperation and hope is pretty central to Spiritualized. So I’ll keep in mind the other line from “Walking With Jesus” – that Pierce has been singing for decades – “It’s a long, long time between now and my death.” Maybe it’s a mantra.
Lord Let It Rain On Me
Headin’ For The Top Now
Walking With Jesus
Born Never Asked
Soul On Fire
I Am What I Am
Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Stay With Me
She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)
So Long You Pretty Thing
Cop Shoot Cop
Whether her normal mode or to fit the bill, country singer Nikki Lane sang everything--songs about marriage, a move to California, or taking a walk of shame--with the same solemn tone, strumming her acoustic guitar. Her banter was a little more cheery. “I used to collect Fillmore posters,” the singer said. “I only stopped because some burned up in an apartment I had in L.A.” Then she smiled and added, “Now I have one with my name on it.”