BEING THERE: Spiritualized @ The Fillmore

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If Brian Wilson had been a ’90s alt-rocker, he might’ve been something like Jason Pierce. He’s a man who turns catchy melodies into pulsating mantras, and layers them to create prismatic sonic mandalas. Spiritualized is a glowing comet on its blissful journey through the heavens, with Pierce at the center of its orbit. Or maybe it’s a diffuse nebula formed from the remnants of Spacemen 3’s supernova, and Pierce leads his continuously shifting Spiritualized crew on a voyage through shimmering interstellar vistas, while we folks back on Planet Earth get to watch their transmissions from, say, The Fillmore, the latest mission being 2018’s And Nothing Hurt. The making of that album took twenty musicians and nineteen studio techs, as to be expected from any Spiritualized endeavor. Last night, they flung us through hyperspace with the perfect blastoff music – I mean, we’re talking mind-expanding crescendos to make your helmet feel tight.

Or, as Dante said after seeing Spiritualized back in, like, 1308:

The glory of the One who moves all things
permeates the universe and glows
in one part more and in another less.
I was within the heaven that receives
more of His light; and I saw things that he
who from that height descends, forgets or can
not speak; for nearing its desired end,
our intellect sinks into an abyss
so deep that memory fails to follow it. (Paradiso 3.1-9)

Dantes really hit the nail on the head, because this is what it’s like trying to recreate the nebulous experience in my mind upon reentering this terrestrial plane. Opening with “Hold On,” Pierce, sitting far on house-right, led the nine-piece band with a sweet wah-wah guitar lullaby as guitarist/harmonicist Tony “Doggen” Foster opened canyons with slide guitar melodies. Song after song, Foster’s solos and accompanying licks sent me careening through asteroid belts, pumped full of adrenaline, and I came to decide that he was my hero of the night. A majority of the set was comprised of the song structure fans of Spiritualized have come to know and love: that soft beginning, like a sapling, growing and branching out, each musician in the band adding a layer until the song blooms into a warp-speed jam, everyone at their loudest, and the stars smear from points of light to infinite rays as they pass you by… and only then do you realize that they just turned a baby tree, rooted firmly in the Earth’s crust, into the Enterprise traveling at Warp 9. The light show and screen projections flashed black and white zigzagging chaos, moiré patterns, undulating CGI nets, and blotter paper zoom-ins at the speed of God.

There is something about the structure of a circle that fascinates and informs artists of psychedelia. Perhaps it is the notion of infinity that its lack of beginning or end implies. Or maybe it’s the equal outward motion from one center point suggested by its radius. I’d venture that Jason Pierce takes considerable inspiration from the circle when composing his music. The encore was concluded with “Hold On,” bringing us right back where we’d begun, like a star formed in the diffuse nebula of a supernova’s remnants. Once a spaceman, always a spaceman, I suppose. — KYLE WEINSTEIN