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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Riverside (Live Review By Paul)

Riverside: The Marble Factory, Bristol

Few could have imagined the horror that Riverside would go through in 2016. Back in October 2015 we watched as the band, well into their 14th year together, glided effortlessly through a magnificent set at The Marble Factory in support of their recent beautiful Love, Fear And The Time Machine album. We now know, all too painfully, how on 21 February 2016 Piotr Grudzinski would pass suddenly and the band were sent spiralling into the depths of despair and grief. The outpouring of support for the band was so heartfelt that the band decided, in time, to continue as a trio. The release of Eye Of The Soundscape and the emotional live album Lost 'N' Found - Live In Tilburg earlier this year has no doubt helped.

The tour, 19 European dates as well as a few select gigs on home soil has been entitled Towards The Blue Horizon. No support act, just two hours of the band. Just before 8pm the trio entered the stage. Led as always by Mariuz Duda, flanked by drummer Piotr Kozieradski and keyboard player Michal Lapaj, the band stood unflinching whilst Duda explained. 2016 had been a disaster for the band, but they had finally decided to continue as a trio. The evening, and the tour, was intended as a cathartic experience for not only the band but for the fans as well. Two hours of music, descending into darkness at times before hopefully climbing into the light and allowing everyone to leave with a smile. Simple, yet oh so challenging. Duda introduced Maciej Meller, touring guitarist and long time friend of the band, who has actually recorded with Duda in the past.

What followed was nothing short of spectacular. Opening with a stripped down version of Coda, and backed by a clever light show, Riverside (10) delivered a stunning performance. well paced, with tracks carefully chosen to allow maximum expression, the majority of the audience (much larger than their last appearance) stood in genuine awe as the evening progressed. Second Skin Syndrome, Conceiving You and Caterpillar And The Barbed Wire were magnificent, with Meller fitting in perfectly, nothing flashy and totally at one with the rest of the band. I've raved about their exceptional musicianship before in these pages but it bears repeating that Riverside are masters of their art. The jam session at the end of The Depth Of Self Delusion allowed them to unleash their inner rock. One of many highlights from the evening was the semi-acoustic version of the opening track from Time Machine, a hear stopping Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat?), slightly spoilt by some very noisy punters at the rear of the venue whose conversation was clearly much more interesting that watching the sublime performance of one of the best progressive bands around. Fools.

As the set headed towards its conclusion, Duda's voice showed no signs of cracking. His delivery is impressive, as is his bass playing, wild and yet fully controlled. Lapaj's keyboard work is almost wizardry, such is his movement and depth of playing. Meller's guitar work was exceptional and the whole thing is in the steady hands (and feet) of the Slayer shirted Kozieradski. The extended Escalator Shrine and Before closed the set before the emotional encore arrived. Duda commented on 2016 before the band launched into Towards The Blue Horizon, which had me on the verge of tears. the lyrical content of a song written before Grudzinski's death is so poignant, and so sadly apt. Watching the band you could see them calling on inner strength to get through and the audience willing them to do so. They did, and with a huge thank you concluded the evening with a different version of Coda. The audience provided an enormous ovation thoroughly deserved. It's going to be a tough ride for this band but they have the strength and support to get through it. A quite breath taking performance from one of the most important bands in rock today.

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