Spiritualized: 16 May 2012 - Austin

A performance from a band like Spiritualized relies heavily on its setting and it is difficult to consider a poorer choice of venues in town then this metallic chrome warehouse.



City: Austin, TX
Venue: Emo's East
Date: 2012-05-16

It is strange to see J. Spaceman surrounded by so few friends. Typically, Spaceman --Jason Pierce and lead singer of British space rock outfit, Spiritualized -- is flanked by quite the posse, especially during the 2009 epic run of performances of the group’s breakout album, Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. During that handful of shows, Pierce was rolling thirty plus deep with a string section and gospel choir accompanying him. Tonight, the rotating cast of Spiritualized is sparse with four musicians and two background singers. The sparseness of the group’s roster is more than compensated by the vastness of tonight’s venue, the recently opened Emo’s East.

The original Emo’s was an Austin institution for decades located on the famed Red River Street strip. The doors shuttered in late 2011 with plans to reopen in a larger space in East Austin. A performance from a band like Spiritualized relies heavily on its setting and it is difficult to consider a poorer choice of venues in town then this metallic chrome warehouse. From a distance the site’s contours striking resemblance to the spaceship from the film Flight of the Navigator is impossible to ignore and despite the appropriate celestial connections, this is not the room to play from this reverb heavy catalogue.

The group opens up with “Hey Jane”, their first single from their recently released album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light. The lead guitar’s repetitive crescendo carries the track along with a chugging drum beat, while the female back up singers flank Spaceman’s lines with effortless "la la la’s". The song reminds me of a Velvet Underground song if the band preferred speed to their heroin but with the recorded cut coming in at a shade under nine minutes, the live version too proves to be a couple minutes too long.

The crowd, however, seems not to care. The average age of tonight’s attendee is well past the normal Austin “indie” show, but Spiritualized was never the flavor of the week even when they were critical darlings some fifteen years ago and the room is full of smiles and plumes of smoke.

The underrated “ Rated X” is played early on in the set to audible surprise and gratification. The song opens with a hazy intro set to a subtle organ and what sounds like a guitar sputtering out of gas. Slowly the song opens up in triumphant jubilee while Pierce murmurs slowly “and memory holds the hurt inside/ regret creeps up on you” and somehow that pain becomes as blinding and awe inspiring as a shining star.

“I Am What I Am” is arguably the highlight of the evening and another track from the new evening. The song is sticky with a swagger that Spiritualized has not owned for many years. Much like its title, Pierce is not making any excuses for what he is all about. Yes, he loves his gospel music and his screeching guitars. He knows exactly what he likes and what he doesn’t and he isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade (“I am the pound of flesh that signifies the sun before you told”). The accompanying visualization on the screen is a journey through a computer programmers dream and loos like a sketch from the world of TRON.

When the famous recorded voice message to the title track of Ladies is played, the room erupts in approval. The song gives the feeling of being inside a warm house as snow slowly falls outside of your window. “All I want in life is a little bit of love to take the pain away” and everybody in the room seems to relate while also admiring the courage for such a stark admission. “Only fools rush in,” Pierce warns yet this audience knows there is not a more enjoyable sensation to commit to than that total surrender.

To nobody’s surprise and certainly nobody’s complaint, the band closes their encore set with “Cop Shoot Cop….” When the quiet jangle of the tambourine that teases the intro of the song is heard from the darkness of the stage, several shouts are heard from the crowd. This song still plays like you are listening to it for the first time even all these years later. The quiet-loud-quiet composition was first templated by the Pixies and copied by literally every band ever since though no band plays that hand with the restraint that Pierce and his troupe of miscreants do. When they go for loud they go for broke. Like a shootout in a studio basement apartment with 2,000 mercenaries or a screaming match between two fed up lovers, nobody has any expectations of leaving this room unscathed. Spaceman makes no apologies -- for his drugs, his loneliness, his sickness or his hopes. And pleading for your lovers hand has and never will sound so chic.





Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.


The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.


Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.


Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.


Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.


Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.


Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.


Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.


The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.


Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.