Spiritualized, Iceland Inspires, Reykjavik 01/07/2010
July 21, 2010 by Chris Cummins
Far from the crammed sweat boxes of the UK’s gig circuit or the vast quagmires of our festivals, Reykjavik’s natural beauty and 24hrs of sunshine made it the perfect location to take in an evening of celestial music. On a stage placed next to a stunning lake in the heart of Iceland’s capital, local bands were invited to support one of the UK’s most revered and successful artists Jason “Spaceman” Pierce for a special one-day festival called Iceland Inspires.
Despite having a population of just over 300,000 people, Iceland’s musical output has been surprisingly good over the years. Tonight several of the bands seemed intent on upholding that standard and many delivered. Most unexpected of all was Mammút. Despite their youth and their music seeming slightly naive at first, lead singer Kata has the presence and talent to take the band far beyond the small Island. Caught somewhere between Karen O and Florence Welch, Kata holds the stage and the crowds attention, while the rest of the band timidly play a mix of electro and post-punk.
Somewhat more familiar to English shores, Seabear’s music boded well with the serene surroundings. Wrapped in Nordic jumpers, enough musicians to give Arcade Fire a run for their money played an uplifting set influenced by the Canadian outfit. Lead by Sindri Már Sigfússon they produced songs that built into melodramatic anthems from simple, hushed beginnings. However, it was not all a grandiose affair, with many of their songs remaining in their melancholic mould.
Despite being nearly 10pm by the time Jason Pierce makes it to the stage, it’s still as bright as it was at 10am. Pierce clearly showed the signs of living a little too hard during Spirtitualized’s ’90s hay day. Consequently, he remains seated for the entire set, with his frail arms wrapped around an acoustic guitar and sunglasses wrapped around his face. Yet, despite his appearance, Pierce’s vocals are far from shot.
Backed by an Icelandic choir and string section, he works his way through a careering spanning set, which even included a track from his Spaceman Three days, under the moniker Spiritualized: Acoustic Mainlines . As expected the likes of ‘Soul On fire’ and the title track to Spiritualized’s most recognised work ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ went down best with the Nordic crowd. What was most striking was the stripped down orchestral arrangements of the songs. When stripped back to their simple arrangements, Pierce’s vocals and songs take on a new level intimacy and sincerity that complimented the stunning surroundings.