Nikki Lane - This is a rather daunting task, taking an acoustic guitar on stage in front of sizable crowd at a big club with a full band coming on right after your half-hour set. But Nikki Lane has been doing this a week and is up to the task. She is relaxed and having fun, jokingly asking the crowd if anyone came to see her. Her voice is somewhere between Laura Warschauer who I recently saw and maybe Karen Dalton (although not to the level of intensity in Dalton's unique voice). The guitar playing is brisk without any particularly noteworthy features. The songs are good, solid efforts with the voice being the key area of focus. It seems I rate the audiences more when a folk performer plays to a rock crowd and I will give this crowd high marks. Crowd noise was low and attention was high, which speaks to the quality of people that find their way to the music of Spiritualized. Although I would rather see this South Carolina-born and current Nashville resident in a folk club (I doubt she would disagree), this was a fine set.
Spiritualized - Of course the positive side of having a folkie open for a full band is that the stage is already set up and the break is on the short side. A little after 9:00, the band hits the stage for its set which well exceeds ninety minutes. The band looks pretty much the same as when I saw them in Denver four years ago. I really like the subtle shift on stage where Jason Pierce is downstage left staring at the other guitarist who is downstage right, also looking sideways. The keyboards, bass, drums, and two back-up singers form an arc behind them. And the appearance of a band locked in to each others playing is the perfect look of a band, indeed completely locked-in to their sound. The mixture of folk, gospel, psychedelic, and rock sounds is so personal and unique, that the band has developed a strong cult of fans around the world. I was absolutely blown away at the previous show. But while everything sounded great early on, aside from under-mic'ed background singers, the music was not quite blowing me away. A little bit of patience goes a long way, for as the set progressed, the mesmerizing music worked its magic and pulled me in all the way. For someone who does not drink or do drugs, it takes a special artist to induce a real tripping experience. Between the pulsating back projections and the layered music, this band had me space traveling several times during the set. Actually, I grew to like the way the background singers were not overly loud with their tones and some of the keyboard sounds working barely above the subliminal level. The drums and Pierce's guitar were consistently steady, leaving enough room for lead guitar and bass runs that captured a (mostly) subtle psychedelic vibe. "Come Together" was the powerful closer and it is good advice for all of us, but this band came together long ago and continues to amaze.
Quote of the Night: Paraphrasing Nikki Lane... 'I've been opening for Spiritualized for seven days, who I've worshiped since I was 14. I have been petrified, but tonight is the first night I'm not scared, so give me a round of applause for that.'