Live Music + Gig Reviews

Spiritualized @ Royal Festival Hall, London

13 October 2009

Taking an album that clocks in at just under 70 minutes and turning it into a full-length concert is a big ask. But this evening J Spaceman and his associates managed to do just that, performing their lauded 1997 release Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space in its entirety. When it was released, the album received many awards and was the subject of legal wranglings with the estate of Elvis Presley, as a result of the title track having incorporated the lyrics and melody from Presley’s track Can’t Help Falling in Love. As a result, an alternative version of this track had to be released on subsequent pressings.

Thankfully, when playing live Spiritualized perform it as originally intended- which works very well indeed, particularly with a choir singing the refrain and merrily sashaying throughout the evening. They were great fun to watch, particularly during various freak-outs that occurred.

One male chorister really got into the zone, and proved to be particularly adept at shaking his groove thang. At full pelt, they were a force to be reckoned with – which brought to mind the Edwin Hawkins Singers arrangement of Oh Happy Day, which Spiritualized have covered. (It was released as part of the live album Royal Albert Hall October 10 1997.)

To the left of the choir were the brass section, who came to the fore on Come Together. This was also an indicator of how the songs from the album were to be transformed into lengthier versions of themselves, allowing for both extended discordant extravaganzas (complete with retina-burning strobe lighting) as well as more contemplative and rather wrenching versions of tracks like Stay With Me.

The latter had the phrase “Stay with me, baby don’t go”, sung by the choir over and over in a wonderfully rhythmic manner that was almost meditative. Though in a delightfully surreal way, the guitar riff morphed into something very similar to the distinctive synths on Berlin‘s Take My Breath Away, as featured on the soundtrack to Top Gun.

On the issue of lighting, they opted for the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? school of thought, probably blowing a significant portion of the budget on it. But it was very effective, and there were several lovely touches, not least having a starry background appear as the album’s opening line floated over the speakers.

Another was during Stay With Me, when several banks of lights were directed towards the disco ball, flooding the hall with swirling yellow light – simple, but effective. It was a welcome addition, given that Mr Spaceman isn’t one for moving about much (or indeed, at all) on stage, preferring to sit with his guitar and trusty Apple laptop nearby.

This being the Royal Festival Hall, the seated crowd mostly limited themselves to polite clapping. Though when things came to a close they did give a thoroughly appreciative standing ovation, and did so again after the encore of Out Of Sight, from the 2001 album Let It Come Down. It was great show and a prelude to their return to London at the Barbican in December.

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More on Spiritualized
Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful
Spiritualized @ Hammersmith Apollo, London
Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt
Spiritualized @ Barbican, London
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light