There’s an incredibly rare moment during Spiritualized’s latest visit to Melbourne: Jason “Spaceman” Pierce says something other than his customary: “Thank you” during the set. Unfortunately, it’s: “Gotta sort this out...” as he stands up and walks offstage after his guitars malfunction for the third song in a row.
Given he’s a man who can – and frequently does – lead his troupe through ear-pounding, gut-shaking, psychedelic, balls-to-the-wall freakouts while looking as if he’s patiently teaching a six-year-old to play arpeggios on their first guitar, it takes a while before his stoic front breaks. And, while the techie enduring a night from hell plays fruitlessly with pedals and leads during 'Hey Jane', it’s no bad thing, with the rest of the band turning the song’s middle section into a trance-like ride that lends the joyous finale even more weight.
Yet the gremlins return again and again during the first half of the set, frequently disrupting the flow of what is an often epic collection, swinging from gentle lullabies through straight out garage rock to those ear bleed moments, moments that are lightened by the sight of the two gospel singers maintaining their gentle swing as bedlam descends around them.
Sound is restored in time for 1997’s classic Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space. Yet the rendition pales in comparison to that performed on the band’s Acoustic Mainline tour. It’s a strangely plodding effort, especially sat alongside the stomping militaristic might of new track ‘'A’ Song'. In fact, for the most part it’s the heavier, darker moments that shine through, not least the dizzyingly bold one-two punch of 'Take Your Time' and 'Electric Mainline' that ends the main set.
It paves the way for a crowd-pleasing encore drawn from Pierce’s earlier work. Spacemen 3’s 'Walking With Jesus' sees him take on his gospel preacher’s mantle to great effect, before the band launches into a blistering take on Smiles. Just a shame, then, that his guitar fails again, he marches off stage left, and those hollering their approval are left without even a “Thank you.” Someone in the crew has some serious explaining to do...