February 14, 2014
Friday night was the grand opening of the much buzzed about
United Artists Theatre The Theatre at Ace at downtown's (also recently opened) Ace Hotel. It was also a full moon. And Valentine's Day. And thus an auspicious evening for a bunch of people to get together to listen British band Spiritualized play their 1997 classic Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, a gorgeously lovesick and really sad album.
Included in the fashionable crowd were leather jackets, cool hats, beautiful women, and John C. Reilly. They congregated in the lobby before the show, taking in the theatre, a 1927-built Spanish baroque palace with a pristine facelift and opulence to spare. The venue's silver screen history bleeds from the walls, and its grand opening happening in conjunction with this unique one-off show. It was a pretty hot V-Day ticket. Ace Hotel employees told us that they couldn't even score seats. (Fortunately there was a second show Saturday night.)
As for the music? Spiritualized gave their classic album fresh and thrilling life, with a performance rivaling the theatre itself in lavishness.
The lights on the red velvet curtain shone in the shape of a heart, and the stage was covered in Persian rugs and lined with white roses and baby's breath. At 9:30, the curtain rose to reveal an eight piece string section, six brass players, a nine person gospel choir, and the six guys in Spiritualized.
The audience cheered wildly, with a particularly vocal nosebleed section. Thirty seconds into the first song, the album's title track, the entire row of men sitting in front of us were on the edge of their seats.
The 29 people onstage brought the song to life, complete with its "Can't Help Falling in Love With You" sample. It was loud and hypnotic, with heads bobbing in unison as Spiritualized leader (and only only permanent member) Jason Pierce sang, "All I want in life's a little bit of love to take the pain away."
Pierce, who has led various incarnations of the band since 1990, never once rose from his stool at stage left, and kept his sunglasses on for the whole show. No one was at center stage, which was fine. The small army of people, working well as a unit, raised a glorious rock cacophony that at several points (especially "No God Only Religion") became a righteous wall of noise.
It was analog nirvana that swung between delicacy and discord, as the band performed songs about love and its bitch twin heartbreak.
It was as if Pierce thought he could make his pleas ("don't go, baby don't go, please don't go") beautiful enough, they just might work. Gentler songs got a more delicate light show, and a disco ball that lowered from the ceiling during "The Individual" made it look like we were all indeed floating in space. The guitar driven aggressive rock jams were accompanied by strobes that flashed with seizure-inducing brightness and speed.
The standing ovation after the album ending "Cop Shoot Cop" came immediately, and the cheering didn't wane until the band came back onstage at 11pm for a three song encore that ended with a rich cover of the gospel hymn "Oh Happy Day." Pierce, in his white skinny legs, silver Chucks and an MC5 t-shirt, left the stage last, cracking a smile and raising his arms in victory.
Random Notebook Dump: "STROBES STROBES STROBES"
Personal bias: Obviously the first person one runs into when going to a concert by themselves on Valentine's Day is their ex and his strikingly pretty date.
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