On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the British band Spiritualized, led by Jason Pierce, blew up Seattle’s Showbox Theatre.
The horn section was definitely on – the lead trumpet had a grin on his face all night – and the rhythm section, including the rookie drummer who learned the set in five hours two weeks ago, proved up to snuff.
Especially strong was “Take Your Time” a song that takes seven minutes of the same five notes to work up to a what would be a logical start for most bands – one frenzied guitar riff repeated over and over.
The set’s closer “Sometimes,” from the latest album Let It Come Down, was the big highlight though.
The band made beautiful noise of the song’s simple melody before a wailing hot trombone solo capped it off.
Soon after, the first song of the first encore blew the lid off of the place. “The Other Side,” an old Spacemen 3 track, saw Pierce leading the paces through a repetition/release/repetition/release pattern that left fans still hungering for a release of their own.
Unfortunately, the whole evening saw Pierce in familiar reluctant singer mode. He stepped to the mic with the trepidation for which he’s known and sent his voice wavering over the crowd, leaving the clued-in to worry over his coming performance on “Lord, Can You Hear Me,” the full-throated gospel tune that ended the show.
He came through on this one, letting it out strong and clear, and when the chorus kicked in with the horns – loud and bright in all their majesty – it was a perfect close.
Back in Portland at the Roseland on Thursday night, the first difference noted between the two shows was venue quality. The Showbox had one big dude who let you into the place hassle-free, while the Roseland had its usual frisk-happy security guards whose jobs require the majority of their collective brainpower.
My companion pointed out one particularly disheveled and flustered man of about 30 who looked as if he might cry upon winning passage from the brutes. The Showbox also has three well-tended bars in the main room, while the Roseland has one crappo little beer stand within sight of the stage. Someday Oregon might evolve.
As for the music, on this night it became apparent that Spiritualized’s two new guitarists are bred of the Keith Richards school. Compared to their predecessors, their playing is bluesier and rockier in the moments they are allowed to roam the fret boards. The old guys seemed to adhere to the tamer jangly, sunny style of George Harrison and John Lennon. It is a better fit, this rawer style of play, given the heavy gospel overtones of the band’s music.
The horns took a backseat to the guitars on this night, especially the guitar wielded so gently by Pierce. His singing and playing more than made up for a couple of gaffes made by the drummer. He took control right form the start, and held the audience rapt throughout.
Both shows highlighted the intense emotions the music evokes. One pleasant surprise was that the acoustics held up in the oft-cavernous Roseland, but after seeing a show in a rock and roll town like Seattle, it’s always hard to come back.