Saturday 5th April 2014
Academy 2 in Liverpool, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
Back in the UK just over a year after their last visit, and as their 'New Generation' touring cycle winds to a close, April 2014 sees Polish musical innovators Riverside embark on their longest ever run of headline shows on these shores...six, no less. But would increased promoter interest in booking these talented Poles for more than their usual quota of UK gigs prove concordant with increased crowd interest? Tonight in Liverpool's Academy 2, it would seem so as there's a respectably healthy turnout. With the Grand National taking place a short journey down the road at Aintree Racecourse just a few hours earlier, frontman Mariusz Duda thanks the audience for choosing to attend the gig rather than the "horse show". A wise move for all as Riverside shows are never a gamble - right from the very first time I experienced their music at the Dutch ProgPower festival back in 2004, and throughout the years, they've consistently delivered sets of ingenious sonic sublimity. And with the band's pre-tour promise of a special set, including songs not performed during 2013, as well as some different arrangements, it was already primed to be a night to remember.
There's an expected bias towards material from last year's rather awesome 'Shrine of New Generation Slaves' album, including openers 'New Generation Slave' and 'The Depth of Self-Delusion', and the latter with an extended outro. However, they also dip into their wealth of material from the past 10+ years, including the rarely performed 'Acronym Love' from 2005's 'Voices in My Head' EP. The full ten minutes of 'Goodbye Sweet Innocence' from 2011's 'Memories in My Head' is also aired mid-set, which makes its live debut on this tour, and seguing into the equally lengthy 'Living in the Past', also from said EP, Mariusz jokes, "that was a long one!", at its climax. The latter's tranquil passage of falsetto vocals offset against bursts of heaviness works even better live than its recorded counterpart, as stage lighting and music are synched to provide a more visually engaging moment in Riverside's performance. Older numbers such as 'Out of Myself' and instrumental favourite 'Reality Dream III' still sound remarkably fresh and exhilaratingly innovative in 2014, with extended arrangements embellishing their core motifs. Up-tempo 'ADHD' track 'Egoist Hedonist' engenders a little dancing in the crowd while 'New Generation...' songs 'Feel Like Falling', 'We Got Used to Us' and 'Escalator Shrine' all sound incredible tonight.
Riverside embrace and fabricate the very essence of what it means to be a genuinely progressive band through their craft. Ever-evolving by progressing their own idioms, as well as writing music with emotionally expansive soundscapes, there's no prog genericism within Riverside's aural aesthetic. It's all about the emotions (well, as is all music), although their refined control of such within their sonic architecture, and how they naturally progress the moods of their music into aurally profound modes of expression, is simply breathtaking. And they excel at this in a live context, with tonight's show in Liverpool being no exception. Piotr Grudzinski's varied guitar sounds (without an over-reliance on effects), help convey and create songs' affective depths beautifully, particularly with his melt-in-the-mouth lead tone. Likewise for Michal Lapaj's array of keyboard sonics. Sticksman Piotr Kozieradzki's range of drumming techniques add further depth and character to the music alongside Mariusz's unique bass licks. And the latter's voice, ranging from alluringly tranquil to a gruffer rock delivery and occasional growls, embellishes the already emotionally-charged music with passages of vocal-led moods that are captivating as much as they're invigorating.
Fans in attendance evidently adore Riverside and their music judging by reactions this evening. Apart from a few moments where people clap along, bob their heads, or even engage in a little dancing, the audience is largely static throughout. However, they make their presence known with rapturous applause and enthusiastically loud cheers after each and every song. Encore airings of 'Celebrity Touch' (with its classic rock grooves innovatively interweaved within Riverside's own idiomatic aesthetic) and the fifteen minute title track from 2005's 'Second Life Syndrome', wrap up the Poles' two hours of musical grandeur. And as the four men line up at the front of the stage to take bows, they receive the biggest cheers of the night. Deservedly so, for their Liverpool debut has been magnificent on every level.
Click on thumbnails for larger images:
Riverside at the Academy 2 in Liverpool, UK, 5th April 2014
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com