Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Radio City Gets Spiritualized
Wednesday, August 04, 2010 - 12:15 PM
Last Friday, at Radio City Music Hall, space-rock band Spiritualized gave a rare – and, they said, final -- performance of their 1997 album Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space, all 70 minutes of it. I was lucky enough to attend.
Spiritualized seldom plays songs off the album in concert, because they require more than 30 musicians in a live setting. (The band usually tours in a six-piece rock set-up, plus three backup singers). That's why Friday was such a treat, with string and brass sections and a full gospel choir filling out Radio City's stage. Ranging in style from psychedelic meditation to blues explosion, Ladies and Gentleman drips with symphonic ambition. Themes recur throughout the album, with a bass line in one section becoming the melody in another voice later. These aren't tracks; they're movements. But executing that orchestral concept live is so difficult that the band has announced they will not attempt it again.
Which is fitting, because Ladies and Gentlemen is about saying goodbye – singer and principal composer Jason Pierce wrote it after his girlfriend left him for that guy from The Verve. Now it's my turn to say goodbye to this record. After that performance, with the enormous sound cascading off Radio City's 84-foot ceiling, and the hall feeling more like a cathedral than a venue, I'll never be satisfied listening to Ladies and Gentlemen on my little white earbuds.
There's not any good video of the performance just yet, but decent audio of the entire show has been uploaded to YouTube. Here's the titular opener, which unexpectedly broke into Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love."