Spiritualized Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, April 2

Spiritualized Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, April 2
Photo: Sharon Steele
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Psych-rock legends Spiritualized enraptured the Commodore audience for two solid hours on Tuesday night. Stationed in a semi-circular formation, band leader Jason Pierce, two guitarists, a drummer, a keyboardist, and three backup singers performed with utmost clarity. They made the monumental into the intimate.
 
Gospel songs tinged with delicate slide guitars and caped in powerful harmonies, like "Damaged" and "Stay with Me," formed the bulk of Spiritualized's set. But some of the band's best songs were ones that broke from the gospel mould. Spiritualized first shifted the tone with the broken blues of "Broken Heart"; here, fractured harmonica squealed and ominous drumming spelled doom. The dusky "Sail on Through" conjured one of Yo La Tengo's mystical undersea scores from The Sounds of the Sounds of Science. Spiritualized wound "The Morning After," the cleanest rocker they played, down to an absolute whisper before resuscitating it. The moment would have been truly magical had the audience been completely quiet — some fans tried to curate pure silence by shushing others.
 
Psych-rock can drone and meander tediously, but Spiritualized translated the newfound directness of their latest album, last year's And Nothing Hurt, to their live show. Smoking double-barrelled rocker "She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)" could have spiralled out of control. Same with rollicking rocker "On the Sunshine," which still ended up being the most unhinged and climactic song of the night. Instead of culminating in public displays of self-indulgence, these songs attested to Pierce's chase of perfect songcraft.
 
As laboured as Spiritualized's performance was, though, it was never emotionless. "Hold On" was a bluesy, bleeding-heart psych jam. It segued into the hymnal "Shine a Light." "Lord, shine a light on me," Pierce besought with debilitating fragility in his voice. The song then roared to life from a sustained organ tone, like he had indeed been saved.
 
Spiritualized could have ended the night with any of their encores based on song titles alone: "So Long You Pretty Things," "Out of Sight" and "Oh Happy Day" would all have made for fitting farewells. But the band circled back with Pierce singing a snippet of "Hold On": "You got to hold on, baby, to those you hold dear. Hang onto people you love." For almost four decades, Jason Pierce has chased answers about mortality and spirituality through sex, drugs and music. With those closing lyrics, he seems to have finally arrived at at least one simple truth.