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ROCK

Vicar Street

Jason Pierce is an anti-frontman: he has no interest in commanding a room; he offers no platitudes about the joys of playing Ireland; he can't even be bothered looking at the crowd -- his mic stand is set up in such a way that he faces across the stage, a position he holds for the entirety of tonight's two-hour performance.

Pierce is the embodiment of that hardy 'it's-all-about-the-music' cliche.

And there is a large part of the show when the music is so all-consuming that Pierce's lack of engagement hardly matters, where wave after wave of long, guitar-driven, psychedelic rock songs and an unrelenting montage of background imagery takes the audience on a pulsating, exhilarating mind trip.

But the Englishman -- who has been making music for the best part of 25 years in, first, Spaceman 3 and, then, Spiritualized -- can be a maddening performer too.

There are several fits of self-indulgence, characterised by the all-too-frequent moments of guitar noodling. And, occasionally, his band fail to transmit the nuances of his music.

It's a mixed gig, then, but one in which Pierce's singular vision can easily be discerned.

Intact

And the material aired from forthcoming album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, suggests his ability to captivate remains intact, not least on 'Mary' -- which starts off low-key before building powerfully.

Pierce's appreciation for the potency of gospel music peppers his back catalogue, and it's evident tonight, as well, not least on 'Lord, Let It Rain On Me' -- one of the few times his two female backing vocalists are utilised as well as they might be.

The career-spanning set includes the crowd-pleasing 'Lay Back In The Sun', an electrifying 'She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)' and a rather perfunctory take on 'Electricity'.

The band's most acclaimed album, the harrowing, break-up record, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, provides the night's best moments, particularly on the title song, which finds Pierce singing with electronically treated vocals.

Another of that album's most resonant songs, 'Come Together', sounds incendiary tonight. It gives Pierce and his band an opportunity to ratchet the melodrama up several notches.

At the end, everything that's great -- and infuriating -- about Jason Pierce is captured in a lengthy, free-form version of 'Cop Shoot Cop'.

It manages to be both thrilling and tedious. Much like everything that has gone before.

Irish Independent