Spiritualized Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver BC May 26

Spiritualized Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver BC May 26
There's no question Jason Pierce has had a life of ups and downs. Riddled with years of substance abuse, inner-band drama and, most recently, a battle with liver disease, the man affectionally known as J. Spaceman has been through the ringer more than a few times. Add in some brushes with death, and it's a wonder the 46-year-old hasn't faded away into some deep, private seclusion. Yet despite all the personal struggles, Pierce never fails to deliver Spiritualized's rock-fuelled interstellar soul to masses -- something his fans continue to be ever grateful for.

Taking the Rickshaw stage with foursome of supporting players and two female back-up singers, a silver-shoed Spaceman came dressed all in white, his bug-eyed shades remaining firmly in place throughout the set's lengthy two and half hours. Not surprisingly, the group began with "Hey Jane," the lead-off single from the band's latest full-length Sweet Heart Sweet Light, while Spiritualized stoically began to deliver their set in front of projected abstract images of aquatics, electrical waves and galactic explorations.

But it was hardly a night focused solely on the Spiritualized of now, with a healthy dose of back catalogue classics thrown into the mix as well. Of course, live staple "Walkin' with Jesus" soon made an appearance, marking the night's first true highlight as Pierce and co. filled the Spacemen 3 favourite with extended instrumental passages that twisted, turned and got more than a little epic.

In fact, the set was loaded with long sections of purely instrumental displays of rock'n'roll exploration, with Spiritualized trading the past tension of their live shows with a more loose and relaxed approach. The jam-heavy feel did occasionally suck some of the set's momentum, but more often than not Pierce got things back on track by giving the crowd exactly what it wanted, such as stellar renditions of "Soul on Fire" and "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space," which came complete with a moving coda that drew on the classic '60s tune "Can't Help Falling in Love."

Keeping with the night's jammy nature, Spiritualized closed with a crushing take on "Come Together," leaving ears aching thanks to a full-on r'n'r meltdown that escalated in a wailing wall of feedback. Following an encore performance of "So Long You Pretty Things," this act of aural extremes was quickly outdone by the classic Spiritualized freak-out track "Cop Shoot Cop...," which was as epic and intense as ever.

Pierce's road may have been a rocky one, but it hasn't hurt Spiritualized's live show in the least, making us all that more thankful that he hasn't yet gone on through to the other side.