Band reunions are a dime a dozen in recent years, so much so that the subsequent shows almost feel perfunctory, not quite as special as they should be.
And then there’s Ride.
The Oxford, England, quartet—which reunited this year after nearly 20 years apart—put on an incredible show last night at House of Blues, one that felt like the band was relishing every moment of its return.
Ride started their set amid sound effects that started like a jet engine revving up, the perfect intro to the ten-minute-plus “Leave Them All Behind.” which was awash in guitar effects and psychedelic noise. Things got more intense from there: “Seagull” ended in with a distorted guitar duel that sped up to a white-noise frenzy, while highlight “Black Nite Crash” was a nasty, charred-Stones stomp. (During the latter, vocalist/guitarist Mark Gardener noticeably grinned when he spotted a fan by himself in the balcony who was completely losing his shit over the song.) “Taste” let bassist Steve Queralt shine, while Gardener sounded stronger than ever hitting the high notes on the woozier “Dreams Burn Down.”
These were topped, however, by an interlude during “Drive Blind”: As strobe lights cloaked the band in flickering darkness, each band member made a gleeful racket on their respective instruments, from drummer Loz Colbert’s clattering rhythmic randomness to Gardener and vocalist/guitarist Andy Bell’s effects-laden guitar strokes. After a few minutes of chaos, they stopped (nearly) on a dime and finished the song. As this song exemplified, in terms of volume, Ride’s performance last night absolutely rivaled those of notoriously eardrum-hammering groups such as Dinosaur Jr and Motörhead.
But the beauty of Ride is how they balance their noisy side with more subtle moments of tranquility—as heard on the wistful classic “Vapour Trail” and a delicate “Polar Bear,” which featured heavenly harmonies and oceanic guitar keening—and a penchant for pop signifiers. The gorgeous, melodic set-ender “Chelsea Girl” didn’t disappoint, while a standout version of “Time Of Her Time” surged on declarations of emotional freedom. Gardener and Bell’s intertwined harmonies were particularly hypnotic and malleable last night, conveying unease during a simmering take on Nowhere’s “Unfamiliar” and nostalgic optimism on the proto-Britpop cut “Mouse Trap”; the latter in particular made a solid case for Ride as an inspiration on early Radiohead and Oasis.
Yet Ride’s refusal to simply recreate their classic sounds—or take the easy, greatest-hits setlist route—absolutely elevated the concert. At one point, Gardener announced, "We're going to try something we've never much played ever live,” as a preface to an airing of the elegiac jangle-pop rarity “Tongue Tied,” an obscure Going Blank Again outtake that seems to have been played only once before. And as the encore started, Bell simply said, "This is for people asking for 'Nowhere,’" to introduce a moody performance of the seminal album’s title track. The song was at once vaguely psychedelic and doomy, but yet also achingly beautiful.
The Canadian quintet Besnard Lakes were the perfect opening act, as they specialized in psychedelic grooves that crested like an ocean while referencing the rougher, noisier elements of shoegaze and washes of brittle melodies. The band’s 45-minute set was mesmerizing and invigorating—not the least because Bell joined the group for the final two songs of their set, and added some trademark psychedelic guitar scribbles to the proceedings.
1 Leave Them All Behind
2 Like A Daydream
3 Polar Bear
6 Tongue Tied
7 Mouse Trap
8 Cool Your Boots
9 Black Nite Crash
10 Time Of Her Time
11 Dreams Burn Down
13 Vapour Trail
14 Drive Blind