The Perfect Storm: Riverside at the O2 Academy, Islington, London on Thursday 14th March 2013

To paraphrase Wikipedia…a “perfect storm” is a term that can be described as a confluence of different related phenomena that combine to create what can be referred to as the “perfect situation” to generate an event (its first use was allegedly to describe a ‘perfect storm’ of applause).

And yes, things came together pretty nicely on Thursday night.

I have to admit I was a reluctant attendee, not because I don’t like Riverside, far from it. Unfortunately I had undergone a seriously bad day at work, leading to the cancellation of my holiday booked for the next day :(  I also had a dose of ‘man-flu’. So I didn’t feel that inclined to trudge for an hour plus up to Islington; drink gratuitously (polish vodka maybe?) and get home well after midnight.

Things started getting better as travel connections were good and we (Nigel and I) managed to get to the venue fairly early and caught half of the set of the first of the three bands, Dianoya. Hailing from Poland, like Riverside, they were an engaging and enthusiastic Progressive Metal band and, as the set continued, there were various appreciative nods from some of the ‘older’ members of the audience (me included).

I have always liked the Academy, quite small but never a crush. Even a shorty like me can usually get quite close and get a good view. The acoustics are impressive which is important for an audiophile like me. The bar(s) are very ‘adjacent’ and I like the industrial ‘feel’…the ceiling is full of open girders and ducts; wires and lights. It’s a pretty ‘hip’ place and is used as a late night disco for the ‘younger’ folks after all we oldies are tucked up in our beds. At this point I should also name in dispatches the lighting crew, who added to the ambience considerably with a subtle yet creative lighting display.

Two pain killers taken earlier followed by the quick sloshing down of an (incredibly expensive) pint of lager had given me a renewed vigour. And there was not much waiting required for the second act, Jolly, who herald from the great New York City. They produced a powerful cocktail of heavy, experimental, art rock characterised by slow openings, fast bass lines and high quality guitar playing. They aroused my curiosity and I was quite intrigued to find out more. But please forgive me when I say their Facebook band profile is a load of pretentious twaddle; either that or it’s a very long-winded ‘p*ss take in Spinal Tap style. Nevertheless a strong support act.

A move towards the back (to meet another friend) put me in the perfect listening position, at the apex of the classic ‘audio-triangle’, as Riverside took the stage. This Polish progressive rock band led by the virtuoso bassist and singer, Mariusz Duda, have just released their new album, ‘Shrine of New Generation Slaves’ (SONGS),  intelligently reviewed recently by my fellow Progarchists, Nick and Erik here:

http://progarchy.com/2013/01/26/riverside-shrine/

http://progarchy.com/2013/02/15/self-imposed-slavery-riversides-shrine-of-new-generation-slaves/

The band has been gaining popularity following their critically acclaimed 4th album, Anno Domini High Definition (ADHD) released in 2009. Having gradually veered towards a more classic rock sound from their predominantly metal roots, Riverside have been compared with both Tool and Porcupine Tree. Lyrically far less disturbing than Tool they still retain a heavy guitar riff style and the inclusion of powerful keyboards and potent bass lines give the band an added depth, complexity and uniqueness to their sound.

Mariusz Duda at the O2 Islington

Mariusz Duda at the O2 Islington

Tonight’s set focussed on the new album and ADHD.

Having just been to one of my Top 10 gigs of all time (Steve Wilson at the Royal Festival Hall, London), how lucky I was to see another band at the peak of their powers.  Displaying outstanding musicianship; exemplary timing and an almost telepathic understanding, Riverside are seriously talented. Understated guitar (from a scary looking lead!); extraordinary depth to the keyboards; complex bass patterns weaved by spider-like hands and beautifully sympathetic drumming. Virtually faultless, the only (small) downside was Mariusz’s voice, slightly let down by the flu (I read subsequently that their Sheffield gig the next day had to be cancelled).

There was no showboating; no unnecessary solos; no ego trips displayed. Professional to the last, Riverside were clearly enjoying their evening and showed a genuine desire to engage the audience. And this was reciprocated. How refreshing to see people of all ages. And clearly popular in their home country with plenty of London’s Polish community turning up. Riverside have clearly broken down that difficult barrier that exists for so many Progressive Rock bands…this is not just music for follicly challenged over 50s.

Having been impressed with their last 4 releases, I can say, indubitably, that they sound better live than on record, delivering an electrifying power that is beyond a recorded medium.

Great gigs are not just about the band, they are about the whole experience…the audience; the venue; the lighting; the acoustics.; the beer, absolutely everything ! All these factors combined beautifully to create the ‘Perfect Storm’ and at £19 a ticket it was a steal.

To those interested here is the set-list, with my highlights being tracks 2, 4 and 8:

New Generation Slave – SONGS

The Depth of Self Delusion – SONGS

Feel Like Falling – SONGS

Driven to Destruction – ADHD

Living in the Past – Memories in My Head

We Got Used to Us – SONGS

Egoist Hedonist – ADHD

Escalator Shrine – SONGS

Encores:

Left Out – ADHD

Conceiving You – Second Life Syndrome

Lucid Dream IV – Rapid Eye Movement

Posted on March 19, 2013, in 2013 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Great review Ian.

    Still trying to come to terms with the cancellation of the Sheffield gig :-(

    I sincerely hope I don’t have to wait another 2 years before I get to see them again.

  2. Nick
    That’s really unlucky…you did indeed miss something special. I’m eager to see them again and hope they are back here next year
    Ian

  3. Frank Urbaniak

    Ian, really looking forward to their Rosfest headline appearance in May. Excellent review whet the appetite. Thanks.

  4. Thanks so much for reviewing this, Ian. You guys on the other side of the Atlantic don’t realize how lucky you are to get all these good prog concerts coming through. Although Riverside is supposed to come to the states later this year, but I don’t think they are going to do much more than touch down in a few East Coast places before heading back. Would love to see them but I will probably have to do some serious traveling if I want to get the chance.

  5. Ian, “follicly challenged over 50s” made me laugh out loud, and if these guys are better live than in the studio, they must be amazing! Makes me wish I was there, but your review is the next best thing. Thanks!

  6. Thanks Tad…I’m definitely one of those follicly challenged !

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