Photos by Ben Taylor-Vivian
Reformed UK shoegaze pioneers, Ride, kicked off their highly anticipated Australian tour in Perth on Saturday night and the packed crowd was full of a mix of those who had seen the band on their last tour back in 1992, those who were too young to see them back then, and a whole new legion of fans who had come to the band in recent years thanks to their two excellent comeback albums Weather Diaries and This Is Not A Safe Place.
Ride were always seen as the commercial crown of the early to mid ’90s UK music scene, thanks to a series of excellent EP’s, a stunning debut album ‘Nowhere’ and it’s chart topping follow up ‘Going Blank Again’, and unlike some of their peers seemed to dodge the criticism lumped on others by the UK music press. After two albums that were seen more as a foray into the exploding Britpop movement, Ride disbanded somewhat acrimoniously, leaving behind a legacy of incredible music and legendary live shows, seemingly never to reform.
That was until 2015, when the band announced that they were reforming, touring and releasing new music much to the delight of fans the world over.
With the crowd at the Astor Theatre packing in early, Melbourne psych-rockers Shiva And The Hazards warmed the crowd up for the main event with a set of suitably atmospheric psychedelic rock tunes. With a sound that comes across at times like an amalgam of The Verve and Kula Shaker, songs like ‘East India Empress’ and their most recent single ‘Angkor Wat’ showcased a wash of ’60s tinged psychedelic rock that perfectly set the tone of the evening.
As the instrumental ‘R.I.D.E.’ pumped out of the PA and Ride hit the stage and enormous roar went up from the crowd. Opening with new tracks ‘Jump Jet’ and ‘Repetition’ from their recently released album This Is Not A Safe Place, the dual vocal/guitar attack of Mark Gardener and Andy Bell was in fine form.
With a near perfect set list that spanned the years from their debut EP right up to present day, the new songs sat alongside the older more familiar tracks in a harmonious balance. The backwards guitar intro to ‘Seagull’ heralded the first of those classic songs for the night, with the jangle pop of ‘Like A Daydream’ leading directly into the one-two shoegaze punch of ‘Dreams Burns Down’ and a driving ‘Unfamiliar’.
All throughout the rhythm section of bassist Steve Queralt and drummer Loz Colbert provided the ideal foil for effects drenched guitars and dreamy vocals. ‘Twisterella’ – perhaps the band’s biggest hit in Australia – had the whole room dancing, whilst ‘Lannoy Point’, from their comeback album Weather Diaries, proved that there’s still plenty of songwriting talent and creativity left in the quartet.
Ride have always been one of those bands who bridged the divide between atmospheric rock and pure pop as ‘OX4’, the closing track from Going Blank Again, proved. It’s the kind of wistful ode to the band’s home town that floats a singalong melody over the top of a driving drum/bass combo, with Bell providing tasteful lead lines all throughout. A frenetic ‘Taste’ gave way to ‘Vapour Trail’, the band’s most universally adored song, and the 12-string intro near lifted the roof off the venue. Bell’s vocal was all but drowned out by the entire crowd singing along joyously. It’s still an instant classic of a song; bright and summery and yet with a hint of the melancholic provided by the accompanying string backing. A modern baroque masterpiece. An absolutely massive ‘Drive Blind’ and the psych-rock fuzz drenched goodness of ‘Kill Switch’ rounded out the main set.
But the ride was far from over. Returning to the stage they launched into ‘Polar Bear’, with it’s lyrics by J.D. Salinger, all tremolo guitars and Bell’s sustained E-bowed guitar before the synth intro to the eight-minute opus, ‘Leave Them All Behind’ was greeted like a long lost friend, transporting the crowd into another dimension as the band laid down a wall of charging guitars before leaving us with ‘Chelsea Girl’, the opening track from their debut EP.
Ride more than lived up to expectation and their reputation on the night. For many there, this writer included, it was a dream come true and one many of us never thought would ever happen. The world is truly a far better, brighter and more pleasant place to be knowing that Ride are still out there not only playing those classic songs but creating fresh new material that’s just as good as their back catalogue. Here’s hoping the rest of their Australian tour is a success and they return to us once more very soon.