sun 23/06/2024

Ride, O2 Academy Brixton | reviews, news & interviews

Ride, O2 Academy Brixton

Ride, O2 Academy Brixton

The shoegaze pioneers go back to doing what they do best

"Can someone fetch Mr Bell's sunglasses please?"

Back when this was the plain old Brixton Academy, before Britpop, before New Labour, before the world wide web had weaved its way into our homes, before the war on terror, before the nebulous notion of ‘content’ had yet to ruin everything and devalue everyone, I saw Ride play a gig here. It was ace.

Tonight, it seemed as though everyone who had been there that night was back: older, wider and balder perhaps (the ratio of men to women was roughly that of a pre-suffragette parliamentary cabinet), but with the anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve. It’s a heritage gig of course – let’s not pretend otherwise. The Oxford-birthed shoegaze pioneers are trading on past glories here, but hey, aren’t we all? And anyway, are we not allowed a reminiscence now and then? Can’t a man revisit a daydream for God’s sake?

As the opening feedback squall of “Seagull” soars over us the crowd visibly lifts. This is what they’ve been waiting for

In fact, the first half of this gig, which was a precursor to them playing their 1990 debut, Nowhere, in its entirety, was quite a jolt to the memory. The band took to the stage and, save for Andy Bell’s inexplicable decision to wear sunglasses in a darkened room and Mark Gardener having replaced his hair with a hat, it was as if time had barely grazed them. In fact, it looked very much like time hadn’t even persuaded bassist Steve Queralt to change his T-shirt. As they broke into “Leave Them All Behind”, the lead single from 1992’s Going Blank Again, however, all such frivolous notions were replaced by a quick head nod to the Who before a heads-down assault that left no room for note taking. Oh well, what’s the point of making notes when the whole gig is an aide memoir?

“Like a Daydream”, “Twisterella”, “Today” and OX4" pass by. The sound huge – Loz Colbert’s drumming propelling everything with the feel and groove of Keith Moon, coupled with the rock-solid dependability of a fixed-rate mortgage. Not the most rock ‘n’ roll metaphor, I’ll grant you, but then Ride aren’t the most rock ‘n’ roll band. They’re better than that.

While, with hindsight, some of Going Blank Again seems to telegraph Andy Bell’s then growing desire to be in The Creation, it also hints at the sort of classic songwriting which, had they stuck to their guns, could have propelled them to huge fame. It’s staggering just how much Ride influenced what came after them. In some ways, the second album is like a Britpop blueprint: Oasis with intellectual depth and emotional reach. And without a crowd-full of lairy arseholes dressed by Stone Island.

So, after a short break, we’re at the main event. 1990's Nowhere was a landmark record. For a debut, it had an impressively coherent sound, one that the band chose to abandon soon after, always keen to look for new routes. It’s the sort of thinking that can lead to phenomenal artistic progression – it can also lead to a nagging sense of unfinished business.

As the opening feedback squall of “Seagull” soars over us the crowd visibly lifts. This is, quite clearly, what they’ve been waiting for. Despite a lack of spontaneity – there’s no room for manoeuvre when your set list was written a quarter of a decade ago –  in its place there is a heightened sense of expectation. The crowd knows exactly when ”Dreams Burn Down” is due to arrive and the cheer goes up almost before the walloping drum break has a chance to judge its reach and hit us full in the face.

It has been said that Nowhere is an escapist album. That is probably true and certainly there were many here keen to relive their youth, getting lost in music and swaying, eyes half shut, in the full flush of nostalgic reverie. That’s fine, good on them, but things haven’t actually changed that much. They rarely do. The chord progression of “Vapour Trail” still sounds achingly perfect. The intertwining vocals of Andy Bell and Mark Gardener still sit beautifully on top of the colossal architectural noise they make with their guitars. Also, while Spectres may have taken the noisy mantle and threaded it with barbs, the sheer scale of the resolution following the white noise of “Drive Blind” (played as an encore) is stomach-lurchingly good – it always has been.

As the sonic trails fade, many people are wondering whether there might be new material on the way. If there is, there’s no guarantee what it might sound like. In their heydey – and well beyond – Ride were a band who insisted on forward momentum. If tonight proved one thing, it’s that checking the rear-view mirror from time to time is to be encouraged. People grow old, songs don’t. Time to write some new ones lads, just don’t make them too different from the old ones.

Ride aren’t the most rock ‘n’ roll band. They’re better than that


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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