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24 May, Friday
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Review: Spiritualized – Festival Marquee, CQAF 2019

The best gigs are those where you feel a tingling in the air when you walk into the venue; like electricity mixed with anticipation. It’s all about atmosphere and for some reason, that was what was missing here tonight. CQAF can’t be blamed for that – there have been plenty of nights when the Custom House Square marquee was literally bouncing.

The band took the stage bathed in blue light and two things immediately became apparent. The music was going to be good but there would be no interaction between band and audience – again, not really helping the lack of atmosphere.

While Spiritualized tend to be described as “space rock” their music and their style is much more accessible than this would infer, with strong elements of blues and soul as well as mainstream rock and pop. The band choose to start (and also end) the show with “Hold On”, albeit played in two very different styles. The opener is slower, and more measured.  A twanging guitar intro meets Jason Pierce’s distinctive vocals for the first verse. The drums kick in, the lights come on and the show is under way. The presence of three backing vocalists lend real depth to the band’s sound and there are some subtle gospel influences at play on a few of the numbers. This is maybe more apparent on Shine A Light with it’s sustained Hammond organ chords and sweet guitar break.

“Stay With Me” is a much more dreamy and trippy affair, deceptively simple and quite rhythmical and repetitive. The drums and bass kick it up a notch and again the backing singers provide some real punch to the sound. Cop Shoot Cop is harder, heavier and faster with the guitars getting a more prominent role and more freedom. This is louder and faster that what went before – a cacophony of notes and screeching guitars backed by blinding strobes.

There is no doubt that there is a variety to the tracks on show tonight; “Broken Heart” is played as a simple two-step beat with plaintiff vocals and a harmonica break. The Beatles-influenced “A Perfect Miracle” at least provokes some kind of reception from the crowd when it starts. It ends to polite applause.

“I’m Your Man” (from 2018’s And Nothing Hurt album) is a song with real highs and lows. There is a nice 60/70’s soul feel to the band’s sound and a big, bluesy guitar break – this was maybe one of the highlights of the night. This was followed by another standout track from the most recent, “Here It Comes (The Road) Lets Go”. This uses the same simple C/F chord structure found in The Rolling Stones’You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or even Lou Reed’sWalk On The Wild Side”. It is simple, but none the worse for this, slipping along in a warm, laid-back country-rock groove. As noted earlier, way more accessible and mainstream than you might expect.

“Take Me To The Other Side” is banged out in a fairly fast and furious way and feels like the concert is moving towards it’s end; the volume is up, the guitar breaks are building in tempo and length and the strobes are flashing. There is time for a couple of more tracks, but nothing that stood out.

Overall, the band sounded great; the songs are well written and were well played on the night. There could be no fault with the talent up on stage, other than their failure to connect with the paying punters. As noted at the outset though, the atmosphere was sadly lacking and there was a lack of energy and excitement that permeated the evening. It’s hard to enjoy a decent gig when the buzz isn’t there.

Photographer and sometime reviewer with an eclectic taste in all things visual and musical. Still struggles to understand jazz.