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Live Review: Spiritualized at The Vic Theatre • Chicago

| September 18, 2022


The Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Review and photos by Jeff Elbel


Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) and company brought the hypnotic space-rock of Spiritualized to the Vic Theatre on Thursday. The English band performed fresh material from its captivating new album Everything Was Beautiful. Pierce’s finely crafted songs overflowed with sonic euphoria, gathering influences from psychedelic rock, classic pop, orchestral sounds, and gospel music. The beatific music cleared the way for often-jarring lyrics that bared personal flaws and scars with painful honesty on songs like the apologetic “A Perfect Miracle” and “I’m Your Man.”


Pierce performed seated at stage left, where he could maintain eye contact with all of his bandmates and stay in contact with the audience to his left via peripheral vision.

During the expansive opener, “Hey Jane,” a soothing blanket of enveloping drone was interrupted by bursts of chaos. The nine-piece band was led by three guitarists and lush keyboards, lending density, and power to the sound. Pierce’s flowing but the muted vocal melody was sent into the stratosphere by the shimmering voices of three Gospel singers.

The crowd gave a roar of recognition early in the set for the relentless and propulsive “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)” from the 2003 album Amazing Grace. The song was elevated by the furious guitar squall created by Martin Lynch. In addition to Everything Was Beautiful, the set drew heavily from the pre-pandemic album And Nothing Hurt, the predecessor and companion to Spiritualized’s latest. The album’s woozy and bluesy “Damaged” suggested a debt to Pink Floyd, with loping rhythms and shimmering vocals reminiscent of side two of Dark Side of the Moon.

The band was heavily stacked with talent. Lynch played spirited solos throughout the set; evocative George Harrison-styled slide guitar on songs including “She’s a Light,” and bristling harmonica on ‘60s-styled psych rock groover “The Morning After” (before his bandmates brought the arrangement to a pin-drop whisper mid-song). Keyboardist Gregory Coulson played delicate melodies on songs, including the gentle “Sail on Through” and rafter-raising organ on the kaleidoscopic “The A Song (Laid in Your Arms).” Starsailor bassist James Stelfox anchored every arrangement, playing bubbling McCartney-styled bass on “Let it Bleed (For Iggy)” and holding down hypnotic grooves elsewhere as Pierce and company conjured a spectrum of emotions. The vocal trio of Jenna Byrd, Desiree Gillespie, and Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield brought authenticity to the gospel music component of Spiritualized’s unique hybrid of styles.

Veteran fans were thrilled with older favorites, including the bombastic “Come Together” from the seminal 1997 album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space and “Shine a Light” from the 1992 Spiritualized debut album Lazer Guided Melodies. The crowd surged and sang along to the tender “Soul on Fire” from 2008’s Songs in A & E. From the band’s catalog spanning 30 years, only 1996’s Pure Phase and 2001’s acclaimed Let it Come Down were left unvisited.

Pierce brought the show to a blissful conclusion with “So Long You Pretty Thing,” which began as final wounded prayer and closed with a fond farewell. Although the songwriter never addressed the crowd verbally, he shared a focused moment of communal applause with (and for) his devoted audience before leaving the stage.

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Category: Featured, Live Reviews

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