Spiritualized at the Museum of Fine Arts, November 19, 2007
WALKING WITH JESUS? Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce is no blind convert.
Jason Pierce may have started his career with Spacemen 3 in thrall to one aspect of the Velvet Underground — the “White Light/White Heat” street-corner-junkie routine that even Lou Reed had begun to disown by 1991, when Pierce split for Spacemen 3 to form his own Spiritualized. It was an act that seemed to blend with reality as Pierce promoted half-joking notions about “taking drugs to make music to take drugs to.” But in 1997, he brought New Orleans pianist Dr. John in for Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, and he went on to collaborate with the Balenescu Quartet and the Greater London Gospel Community Choir. Confusing the persona with the person is never a good idea in rock and roll, but Pierce has made a clear connection between the addict’s desire to reach a higher plane and the blues/gospel singer’s quest for the very same, as well as the heavenly tug of Spiritualized’s massed swirls of guitar and the rising voices of the gospel choir.
The Spiritualized who showed up at the MFA a week ago Monday had come a long way from the shoegazer drones and overdriven amps (what Pierce once called his “Electric Mainline”) that prompted Neil Young to take the band on tour in the mid ’90s. This was Spiritualized’s “Acoustic Mainline," with Pierce, on acoustic guitar, joined only by an electric-pianist, a string quartet, and a four-woman choir. No drums, no bass, very little amplification. Pierce led his seated forces through what could have been a Sunday service: “Lord Let It Rain on Me,” “Amen,” “Soul on Fire,” “Walking with Jesus.” But he’s no blind convert: “Jesus Christ, look at what you’ve gone and done/Two thousand years of looking down the barrel of a gun,” he sang in “Lord Let It Rain on Me.” And it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear him revving up the guitars when the new Spiritualized disc arrives in 2008. But at the MFA, his Sunday masses of guitars parted to make room for symphonic crescendos, vocals rising in harmony, and songs that brought to mind another side of Reed’s Velvet Underground — the jangly folk rock of their third album, with its talk of “beginning to see the light” and “Jesus.”
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