By James | Oct 25th, 2011 | Live Music |
Spiritualized @ Royal Albert Hall, London, 11 October 2011
Fact is, anyone who was responsible for elegiac masterpiece ‘Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’ is impervious to criticism. Impervious. It’s very simple. As it happens I’ve kept the faith with Jason Pierce/J Spaceman/Spiritualized over the years too, aware as I am of the fact that he has not and is never likely to create anything with the weightless, cathedral-shaped majesty of that 1997 album. The last album, ‘Songs in A&E’ was him playing a pretty strong hand though, which somewhat rewarded the patience of sticking with him.
Considering all the bands and musicians that I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph over the last few years – and I have experienced some amazing highlights, both from a personal and artistic perspective – I can’t remember being as excited about shooting anyone as I was for this gig. As a subject I admit he presents a challenge; he sits like a weather-worn statute for the duration of any show, his back to large sections of the audience, barely taking breath, let alone pulling shapes. But he holds such gravitas in his stillness and the focussed intensity of his performance is undiminished. In some ways its actually enhanced. So I was excited by the opportunity I had to try and capture that (not to mention probably getting away with a really slow shutter speed).
The gig was not without its challenges. The light was not especially forthcoming (promisingly, there was a massive bank of lights at the rear of the stage… that barely flickered during the allotted first three songs) . A collection of over-sized light bulbs both on the stage and hanging from the ceiling did not create the focal point I had hoped they might. A tonne of dry ice didn’t help either (focussing and clarity issues). And obviously, Jason Pierce barely moved a muscle. There were also about 50 people on stage (orchestra/choir/band), who remained pretty much hidden by the shadows.
He played entirely new stuff during the first few songs, but the ebb and flow of the material felt familiar enough to make calculated judgements on where it (and therefore the lights/atmosphere) was going. And I have to say that through a combination of patience, knowing pretty much exactly the sort of thing I wanted to come away with and bundle of good luck, I ended up really pleased with what I came away with.
I even got one of him almost smiling…