Concert Review: Riverside Rock Chicago – 5/19/2019

Riverside, Live at the Chop Shop, Chicago, IL, May 19, 2019

Setlist: Acid Raid, Vale of Tears, Reality Dream I, Lament, Saturate Me (instrumental intro only), Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome (first part only), Left Out, Guardian Angel, Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?), The Struggle for Survival, Egoist Hedonist (without third part, extended second part), Wasteland

Encore: O2 Panic Room, River Down Below

Last night I saw Riverside for the first time. If I can help it, it won’t be the last. Wow. You don’t really get an appreciation for how good these guys are until you see them live. For me, there wasn’t a single moment of disappointment during this show. From the setlist to the performance to the crowd, everything was exceptional. They deserve to be playing much larger venues here in the United States.

Contrive

The show opened with Australian heavy metal band, Contrive. Contrive are a two-man group comprised of identical twin brothers. Both were great, and the drummer was particularly exceptional. The guitarist was quite good too, mixing many different styles throughout their hour-long opening set, including a few seconds of Hackett-esque tones. Opening bands can be hit or miss, but they did a good job of warming up the crowd for Riverside. They even started a few minutes before the stated showtime, which was nice since the 8pm start time on a Sunday evening with work the next day was already a bit much.

I’ve never seen a road crew break down and get ready for the main attraction so quickly. Everything was already set up for Riverside, but they had to take down all the gear from Contrive – and they did that and got everything ready for Riverside in less than 10 minutes. It was entertaining just to watch that.

The Mighty Duda

Riverside didn’t waste any time getting into it, starting out with “Acid Rain” from Wasteland. Within seconds I learned something I had never realized about Riverside – Mariusz Duda’s bass drives the show. I originally thought the driving riff on “Acid Rain” was from a guitar. Nope. All bass. I didn’t realize he was that good. I had a blast watching him play the whole night. I’ve seen John Myung live (probably the most acclaimed bassist I’ve seen live), and I’d say that Duda’s performance matched or surpassed that. At some points during the show, he was strumming one of his three or four bass guitars. Who the heck does that? The mighty Duda, that’s who. Maybe this is old news to most of you who have been listening to them for years, but allow me as a relatively new fan (I didn’t start listening to them until after Piotr Grudziński passed away) to gush over how great Riverside is.

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Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer: Progarchy’s Third Interview with The Duda (aka Mariusz)

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say Mariusz Duda, or as he known around here, The Duda, has been a busy man.  Between last year and this, he’s put out not one, but two Lunatic Soul albums.  In addition, he’s been busy with his day job, recording and preparing the new Riverside album, Wasteland, which is out September 28th.  And then, of course, touring which will be upcoming soon.  Recently, we caught up with The Duda, talking to him for the third time at this site.  Topics included the concept and inspiration behind the new album, recording as a trio for the first time, various instrumentation used on the album, and why he effing hates The Eagles, man.  Press_Photos_05

[Note: It’s possible that I completely made up the thing about him hating The Eagles]

[Note 2: And by possible, I mean 100% absolute metaphysical certainty]

Ok, so let’s get on with it now.

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Progarchy: What made you decide to do an album about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world?

Mariusz Duda:  First and foremost, the story is what I always wanted to write about but never had the occasion to until the end of the world happened in Riverside.  I thought that OK, if I choose this subject, it will be multi-dimensional to have many layers, and pretty symbolic stuff, so I chose this you know.  This is a story about survivors, about the end of the world, and the people who survive the end of the world.  But it’s also connected with the situation in the band, and the situation all around the world, because we live in uncertain times.  For some people, Wasteland might be like Poland or something, so I thought I would do that kind of subject now.

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Still Abiding:  Progarchy Talks Again with The Duda (Mariusz, that is)

It would be an understatement to say that this has been an eventful year for Mariusz Duda and Riverside.  As the year began, they were riding high on the success of “Love,

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Fear, and The Time Machine,” and it seemed things couldn’t be going better.  But life doesn’t always cooperate, and February saw the tragic gut-punch of losing Piotr Grudzinski, which left Riverside’s future indeterminate for a time.

Duda himself, as I found out in the interview, lost his father some time after that.

It’s a lot to take, but some how Duda and Riverside soldier onward, as their recent announcement to continue as a three-piece attests.  I was fortunate enough to be connected to Duda for another conversation (my first one can be found here), as we discussed what he and the band have been through and where they are going from here.

Progarchy: Well, it has been an eventful year for you guys … how are you holding up?

Mariusz Duda: Thank you so much, every day better and better.  You know, time flies, and time also heals our wounds a bit.  This year for me, personally, has not been good because I lost my father in May.  So if you just imagine three months after Piotr’s death, I had a death in my family. Piotr was also my family.  Anyway, this year was not so happy, and I just needed time to recover.  But now I feel better and I have the strength to talk about Riverside and some other stuff, both in the past in the future.

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Riverside’s Soundscape

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No note (or silence) is without purpose.

Riverside, EYE OF THE SOUNDSCAPE (Insideout Music, 2016).  Tracks: Where the River Flows (new), Shine (new), Rapid Eye Movement, Night Sessions 1, Night Sessions 2, Sleepwalkers (new), Rainbow Trip, Heavenland, Return, Aether, Machines, Promise, Eye of the Landscape (new).

It’s truly hard to know what to label Riverside’s latest release, EYE OF THE SOUNDSCAPE.  I can, however, state the following with absolute certainty: it is a truly glorious thing.  A thing of intense beauty.  A thing I very proudly own.  Two disks, 103 minutes of music, and great packaging.  What more could one want from any album, let alone from a band as exceptional as Riverside?

Yet, EYE OF THE SOUNDSCAPE is not really a proper album, or at least an album with all new tracks.  Of the thirteen tracks on this album, only four are new.  The other nine come from previous Riverside releases, generally from the special editions.  What holds them together is the ambient and electronic quality of each song.

But, wait. . . isn’t that what Lunatic Soul is for?  Duda’s more experimental side?

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iamthemorning’s Lighthouse: Neoclassical Beauty

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Imagine, if you will, a world where Aerial-era Kate Bush, Dumbarton Oaks-era Igor Stravinsky, and Sketches of Spain-era Miles Davis got together to compose a song cycle. They might come up with something to rival iamthemorning’s new album, Lighthouse, but it’s doubtful.

A work of astonishing beauty, Lighthouse is also deeply moving. The songs chronicle a young woman’s struggle to overcome mental illness, and her ultimate surrender to it. Heavy stuff, but fortunately the gorgeous musical arrangements make Lighthouse a work worth returning to again and again. iamthemorning takes the listener on this journey through the use of neoclassical music, prog, and classic jazz. Most of the songs feature a full chamber orchestra, while others are buttressed by the talents of Gavin Harrison and Colin Edwin – Porcupine Tree’s rhythm section. Mariusz Duda, of Riverside and Lunatic Soul fame, lends his distinctive vocals to the album’s centerpiece, “Lighthouse”.

Of course, the true stars of Lighthouse are the members of iamthemorning, vocalist Marjana Semkina, and pianist Gleb Kolyadin. Semkina’s vocals are heartbreakingly beautiful, moving from peak to peak as the songs unfold. Kolyadin’s piano work is perfectly simpatico with Semkina’s singing, providing graceful accompaniment. On “Harmony”, he takes center stage, leading a sextet through a swinging instrumental.

The mood of the album flows from the somber overture of “I Came Before the Water, Pt. 1” through the melodic “Clear Clearer”, to the relatively upbeat “Harmony” and “Matches”, before descending again with “Belighted”. “Chalk and Coal”, in the words of Semkina, “represents the final twist of the album story-line, the final breakdown”. The first half of “Chalk and Coal” features the most straight-ahead rock of the album before the band seamlessly shifts into chamber jazz for the second half. “I Came Before the Water” returns, with Semkina, unaccompanied, singing of accepting defeat while a gradually swelling string chorus provides solace. The tender and brief “Post Scriptum” is a final elegy, and Lighthouse is over.

Even though the album is almost entirely acoustic, it packs an enormous punch. It is a work that is best experienced by listening to it in its entirety. Everything, from the cover art to the extraordinarily high level of musicianship, combine to create a tasteful and sophisticated work. This is music that transcends categorization; it is music that is timeless and evocative. iamthemorning have come up with an album that is destined to be a classic of modern music, regardless of the genre.

 

Our 2001st Post: Celebrating the Book of Riverside and Mariusz Duda

Riverside's latest album, LOVE, FEAR, AND THE TIME MACHINE (InsideOut, 2015).
Riverside’s latest album, LOVE, FEAR, AND THE TIME MACHINE (InsideOut, 2015).

Erik Heter’s grand interview with Mariusz Duda this past summer, The Duda Abides, reawakened (or least reminded me of) much of my love of Riverside.  And, that love is and never has been a shy love.  I first heard Riverside sometime between 2005’s SECOND LIFE SYNDROME and 2007’s RAPID EYE MOVEMENT.  I was immediately riveted by their music.  Not only do I love the Polish people and culture, I love prog and rock—so what a perfect mix of things.

Frankly, if you measure Poland’s prog and art rock output through Riverside and Newspaperflyhunting, it’s hard not to think of Poland as one of the most important countries in the world when it comes to producing modern music.

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