Spiritualized, Royal Festival Hall, London
The first edition of Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space came in a mock-up packet of pills: the slim cardboard box contained a leaflet of instructions and a plastic tray covered in foil that you had to break open to reveal the CD itself, which looked like a giant aspirin. It was a beautiful piece of design, but for the fact that, once you returned it to the box after its first few plays, the CD rattled around so freely in there that it quickly became scratched, rendering around half of the tracks unplayable.
Spiritualized's third LP was famously named as NME's album of the year in 1997, a vintage year of high-Britpop that also gave us The Verve's Urban Hymns and Radiohead's OK Computer. Since then, like my scratchy original copy of Ladies and Gentlemen, the very idea of the long player has become somewhat careworn. In a world where music is categorised instead into tracks and playlists, what's the future of the album? Heritage performances in subsidised arts venues? Already other acts – whose continuing existence seems equally surprising – have pulled the same trick as Spiritualized: Brian Wilson performed Pet Sounds in full on his 2002 tour; The Pixies played Doolittle for its 20th anniversary; and Idlewild last year recreated each of their studio albums over five nights in Glasgow.
On the evidence of this show, such endeavours are well worth the effort. Before a backdrop of glittering stars, Jason Pierce – frontman, songwriter and sole remaining original member – sits stage left, emotionless in his sunglasses, accompanied by three other guitarists, two drummers, a string section, a brass section, and a gospel choir. Every one of them is employed for the album's opening, title track. It's a space-rock epic and heralds a near-flawless first half to the set, including "Come Together", "I Think I'm in Love" and "Electricity" – which descends finally into a raging electrical storm of white light and guitar feedback.
Ladies and Gentlemen was the high watermark of Jason Pierce's critical and commercial success, a defining concoction of drug haze and gospel-tinged spirituality that connected emotional and physical euphoria with such inspired lines as "I think I'm in love... probably just hungry". But since then he's become a bit of a parody of himself, forever returning to familiar lyrical and musical conceits. There's only so many gospel-tinged, two-chord tunes you can write before they all start to sound the same. Similarly, the remainder of this show contains one too many lengthy wig-outs to hold the interest.
That said, the second side of the album contains at least two more mini-masterpieces in "Cool Waves" and "Broken Heart" – a reminder that Ladies and Gentlemen isn't just a drugs album, it's a break-up record too. The LP as physical artefact is probably doomed, but Ladies and Gentlemen is being re-released in its original pill-packet packaging to coincide with these shows. Buy two: one to play, and one to keep.
Arts & Ents blogs
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
- 1 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.