Jason Pierce has seen some shit, man. Infamously known for Spaceman 3’s motto of taking drugs to make music to take drugs to, he’s been a key part of the psychedelic scene since the mid-80s. Eventually the psychonaut lifestyle exacted its toll to the extent where Pierce continues to take drugs to make music, but these drugs are focused on keeping him alive.
His fragile health and ability to tour once in serious doubt, Pierce has rebounded strongly and the creative spark still burns brightly. Having visited Boston in 2019 on the And Nothing Hurt tour, the current tour in support Everything Was Beautiful is a companion piece and Pierce focused the night quite heavily on material from these records. The material spans from the same set of demos and the titles are lifted from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and was originally considered for a double LP record.
But being a bit more financially responsible, the label liked the idea of two separate records as a better option so we got two tours out of it, not a bad deal. It looks like Royale has upgraded its lighting and tonight it was spectacular; focused small spots on the ever-seated Pierce and on Doggen, directly across the stage from him was augmented by a large digital backdrop and occasionally blasts of ceiling-mounted strobe panels. “The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)” had a particularly robust use of them, to the point of a disorientation and inducing a trip out of your body, slowly floating in space. I believe lysergic would be a proper adjective.
Right down to his silver sneakers, Pierce has always held The Stooges in deep reverence and finally got around to overtly naming a song for Mr Osterberg, the plangent, slow tempo “Let It Bleed (For Iggy).” The Velvets are also key in his influences and while they didn’t play the epic “Cop Shoot Cop,” “The Morning After” was a clear nod to their legacy.
However, it’s the Stones of the Exile-era that seems to have taken over #1 muse for Pierce, the trio of African-American backing singers in arm-swinging sync providing a large dollop of gospel tinges to the songs; not sure it took me this long to piece that together when “Shine A Light” is a shared title/different song between the bands. The rousing “Come Together” and “Soul On Fire” took the crowd to heights of euphoria and after a brief stage exit, the clamoring crowd coaxed the band back for “So Long You Pretty Thing,” on the surface an uplifting song but once you dig into the lyrics, it’s clear that Pierce is still staring down his mortality. Let’s hope he keeps his meds current.
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.