I could have sworn that someone else had written a perfectly good review of an earlier gig on this tour. I even commented that I was going to see them this week as a comment. But blowed if I can find it anywhere now. So, to the Birmingham Institute leg of the 2017 Ride tour, in support of their perfectly fine first album for 20 plus years, Weather Diaries. Its the second-most convincing shoegaze comeback of recent time, not quite the equal of the mighty Slowdive, but ahead of Swervedriver. Various commitments caused us to arrive just as Ride take the stage so no comment on the unseen support. What we get is twenty-odd songs over the next 100 mins that take in the new album and shoegaze-goes-britpop stumbler Carnival of Light, but mostly are securely anchored in their early EPs and first two studio albums Nowhere and Going Blank Again. Their subdued stagecraft, largely limited to some rock shapes thrown by Mark Gardiner, leaves one to concentrate on their music. And mostly its magnificent, waves of guitar washing over a rock-solid rhythm section. Andy Bell wrings long chains of melody from his, Gardiner chunky chords and flanged textures (is that right) from his, and their interplay is one half of the Ride sound. The other half is their harmonised vocals – by themselves nothing distinguished, but together often magic. The pacing of what is quite a long set (longer than when I saw them twice in the early nineties) is fine: for every long slow freak-out there’s a concise bouncy number like Twisterella to inject momentum. And that’s the third thing Ithought about why their music works so well – that their endless waves of sound numbers are slightly slower than than you’d expect, which enables them to keep them tuneful and stop them descending (mostly) into thrash, and the upbeat numbers are way more danceable than you’d expect from their genre pigeonholing: Twisterella and closer Chelsea Girl have the crowd really moving.
Conventional wisdom on Ride has been that they never quite fulfilled their potential, I’d say that their music, which points to the dance/rock crossover that other bands were just starting out on; to grunge; and to Britpop (there’s another post on bands destroyed by Britpop, ride being one of the most prominent), occupies a unique place on their own. Its surely a good sign that their weakest songs are the ones that sound like other people’s, their strongest sound all their own.
Quite male, forty and fifty somethings with some youngers spattered around. In the gallery and ace Where’s Wally? Lookalike doing air drumming. A slightly more polite and aspirational take on the Happy Mondays or Primal Scream crowds.
It made me think..
After the dissing of the 02 Academy across town, the Institute is a great place to see bands. Not had a bad experience yet in the main hall. Had to correct the overcharging at the bar though. Swiping barcodes replacing common sense.