17 Oct 2015

Ride @ Brixton Academy (live review)

photo creds - daniel gray/brixton academy
Until I saw Patti Smith break hearts, blow minds, and give a fieldful of festival-goers at Field Day, I was never completely sure that the whole seeing a band play a whole album in its entirety malarkey was the best idea. But with the help of her band, Patti's eternally brilliant stage presence and animalistic persona won me over, and her Horses performance was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen...

So my trip to Brixton to see Ride play Nowhere, in full, which is an album that means a hell of a lot to me was almost risky, and certainly exciting. Maybe obviously, on their first full UK tour since the mid-90's, Ride's support slot had to be amazing; and no band are better suited to supporting Ride than, uhhh, Ride.

Opening, what I imagine to be a near-full capacity Brixton Academy, with a set of near-classic material that isn't on Nowhere, Ride's first set was pretty stellar. Leave Them All Behind was every bit as big as it sounded at Field Day, during the festival's headline slot, and it was followed by a rickety version of Like A Daydream, which, despite a mistake going into the first chorus, made up for any mis-steps with sheer youthful charm.

The rest of the 10 song set included the near-rarities Time Machine and Today, the latter of which saw the band's usual guitar-guitar-bass setup swapped for a bass-acoustic-bass setup, with majestic results. As well as that, bona fide classics like a strobey Unfamiliar and a bounding version of OX4 that gives us all nostalgia for things that haven't actually happened to us.

The band's first set of the night was, in a word, solid, but it lacked emotional intensity of the first few times I'd seen them; maybe, and I hate to say it, I'd have been disappointed if this was the only set they did at a festival or something...

But no! 20 minutes later and the Ox-four piece were back with a vengeance, and from the first reverb ridden thrash of Seagull, you knew they'd already got themselves up into top gear. A furious version of one of their strongest tracks followed, before grinding to a help with a heavy, stabbing section of guitar thrashes.

Following that, the band plunged straight into Kaleidoscope - a live scarcity, unplayed til 2015 - which had all the Revolver-style brilliance that it did back in 1990, with harmonies that Lennon and McCartney would be jealous of. In A Different Place, especially these days, rarely gets an outing, but with an especially echoey sound and Mark's best vocal performance of the night, it was every bit as beautiful as you'd expect.

As with the album Nowhere, the centrepiece duo of tracks, that is Dreams Burn Down and Polar Bear, were completely unique highlights. Polar Bear was nothing short of beautiful, with its ever-so-pretty guitar shimmers and its frankly gargantual glacial feel to it, and Dreams Burn Down sounded truer to the studio version than the spaced-out versions that the band cracked out at Field Day and in Oxford.

Two more deep cuts from Nowhere came in the form of the savage Decay, and the heart-breaker Paralysed, just making sure the band's set stayed mesmeric for when they cracked out Nowhere's crowning glory...

In a live environment, as I'm sure you know, the frankly incredible Vapour Trail is even more beautiful, even more evocative, and even more amazing to behold than it is when you're listening to it the first time on a knackered old LP, a CD an ex-boyfriend made for you, or on someone's spotify playlist. From the clangy first guitar bits, to those Andy Bell vocals, to the last two minutes of pure euphoria via the greatest chord progression in modern pop music, everything about this is perfect.

But maybe as a chance to dust off a few more rarities, the band played the three original CD bonus tracks (Fall EP), to cap off their set, meaning that we heard the near-essential indie-popper Taste and harmonica-heavy Here and Now, which were both treats in themselves. Finally, Ride closed with what can sort of semi-half be described as the album's title track, Nowhere, which was much less rooted in the subsuming drone of it's studio version and a bit more concise, to the point... yes lads, you should have known better, but it's all okay now.

Case closed, Ride's Nowhere is a stunning album, and live it sounds just as perfect - in fact, I'd say it's objectively the 90's third best indie and underground album of the nineties... but wait; there was more...

Coming back for one last nostalgia-drenched hurrah, Ride came on for an encore, and god! It was special. Brixton academy is shaped about as perfectly as a huge venue can be for the acoustics of a noise band, with it's mad shapes and gradients, so Drive Blind was genuinely amazing, completely overwhelming, like you'd imagine a Swans or Sunn live show to be like; they did their echoey verse-chorus-verse, and then wham; 10 minutes of raw sonic power was hammered out from the band, making everything shake to a hypnotic array of strobe lighting. It was so, so powerful, so, so moving, and my ear's definitely took a lot of damage. (the video below is a 15 second snippet of the intense noise we all witnessed)

Finally, one victorious race through the jangle-pop anthem Chelsea Girl closed one of the most amazing shows Brixton has opened it's doors to since that Public Enemy show they put on 6music a few years ago. Ride's reunion has been such a success, and all you can hope for now is that they build on it, with some fresh noisy songs and maybe a new album; I hear Slowdive, Lush and The Mary Chain are planning it, so the ball's in your court, lads.
A video posted by cal (@pearlmystic) on

(written by calum cashin)