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Spiritualized @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

Sep. 17, 2008
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   Spiritualized frontman Jason Pierce named his band's newest record Songs in A&E, a reference to his recent stay in an "accidents and emergencies" ward in his home country of Great Britain. Based on his haggard appearance, it is quite clear that Pierce is still not entirely well-physically and perhaps even mentally. Wearing dark sunglasses that only served to accentuate his slight frame and apparent lack of strength at Spiritualized's Turner Hall concert last week, Pierce looked distraught, like a man who had just attended the wake of a beloved relative.

   Yet it was this very appearance that made many of the songs hit even harder. Set opener "Amazing Grace," with the help of two excellent backup singers, set the stage for the entire evening. As Pierce earnestly proclaimed his love for a sweet sound "that saved a wretch like me," he was greeted by a maelstrom of noise emanating from his crack band. It was as if Pierce was trying to conjure up the strength of a true believer, hoping that the din might serve as a sort of call to action.

  This attempt to overcome inertia characterizes the protagonists of many of Pierce's songs. Such individuals never seem intent on apologizing for any kind of mortal sin; instead, they seem to wish to merely overcome the torpor that rules their lives (call it soul music for those stuck in purgatory). For Pierce, as on "Lay Back in the Sun"-with its celebration of "good dope, good fun"-drugs have often been the best way to break out of this state of inaction. Yet Pierce immediately followed this selection with "Death Take Your Fiddle," a song that finds little solace in "morphine, codeine, whisky." Close to 15 years after founding the band, Pierce is still struggling to come to terms with which direction he should head.

  Ultimately, it may be the music itself that saves Pierce. He came alive on "Come Together," which the band turned into an extended jam that seemed to exalt the communal, healing power of rock 'n' roll. For the only time all night, Pierce smiled, and he actually seemed to be enjoying himself. It wasn't necessarily a born-again experience for the reticent artist, but it may have been a tentative first step toward a personal salvation of sorts.


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