Photo by Derek Kouyoumijian.
Perhaps it was appropriate that finding the Spiritualized show in Boston a week ago Wednesday was in itself a kind of pilgrim’s progress. Arriving at the Wilbur Theatre, ready to check out opening act the Dirtbombs, I discovered the doors were closed. The Spiritualized bus was outside, looking like a giant Quaalude to my transcendence-ready eyes, but aside from a roadie in the window, no one was around.
Then a man appeared.
“They moved the show to the Roxy,” he said, pointing across the street. Oh.
At the Roxy, all became clear: the crowd, though not pathetic in size, was . . . well, challenged. The Dirtbombs were leading an enthusiastic clap-along, but the space was barely half-filled, and it remained that way through the night.
A pity, because if the flesh was weak in numbers, the spirit — or at least Spiritualized — was willing. From gospel-tinged openers like “Soul on Fire,” off the recently released Songs inA&E (Fontana), to the twang ’n’ drone closer, “Take Me to the Other Side,” off the band’s acclaimed 1997 Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space (Arista), a shaman-like Jason Pierce merged heroin-era Stones in a “Moonlight Mile” mode with his previous band Spaceman 3’s spacy ambiance. And Pierce was in superb voice, his customary emotional wail replacing the at-times-burned-out rasp from A&E. The latter, it seems, was recorded while he was still recovering from the pneumonia that had nearly killed him — an experience that fed A&E’s lyrics.
Like fellow studio-friendly trance band Portishead, Spiritualized know how to bring their aural soundscapes alive in real time and space. Add strobe lights, psychedelic shapes, and an audience dancing as one and you have the perfect night out. A shame more souls weren’t on hand to enjoy it.