Gig review: Spiritualized, Sydney Opera House, 28/5/2011

It began with that all too familiar female voice, saying the unforgettable words: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space.” Everything to follow was as close to perfection as a live performance recreating a seminal album can attempt to be. Performing Ladies and Gentlemen: We Are Floating In Space tracks in order from start to finish, Spiritualized filled the Opera Theatre with intimate joy.

It was intangible, the sensation that rippled through the crowd that seemed to have no common association; not age or gender or creed. Frankly it is astonishing that a record made in 1997 can still pack the kind of punch that it did on this night. Its spacious rock, the blues elements so perfectly complimented by screeching harmonica, the overwhelming power of a nine piece choir belting it out on stage, to think that this record is 14 years old is to question if anyone else could pull this off as well as Jason Pierce and co did.

Maybe it’s knowing Pierce’s troubled past, the fact that this record was made through heartbreak and substance abuse problems, or the realisation that the man sitting on an unassuming office chair on the Opera House stage was lying in a hospital bed a mere six years ago dancing with death, that made this experience all the more incredible. But truth be told, it’s because of this album. This timeless, heart-wrenchingly gorgeous record.

Whether in the throes of the climatic Come Together, when the six piece horn section came in handy, or during the back and forth endings of I Think I’m In Love, as Pierce’s statements were answered by the choir in turn, the overwhelming sensory explosion filled one’s heart to the brim.

Strobe lights during epic instrumentals left most of us seeing stars, but as the reflecting lights of a disco ball began to spin like stars, we began to feel like maybe we were in space, with them. Pierce’s fragility made Broken Heart a tearjerker, but it was the absolutely brutal aural and visual assault of Cop Shoot Cop that caused the crowd to rise to their feet in a standing ovation all too deserved.

The obligatory encore was done with style and speed; the sounds of Out of Sight leaving the audience in a daze as the lights flickered on and that special world that had built around us all too briefly, faded away.

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