Monday, 3rd October 2011
Barcelona Music Hall, Barcelona, Spain
Though they’re celebrating “only” their 10th Anniversary, it feels like Riverside have been around for much longer given their ever increasing popularity and solid reputation,
which also seem to transcend the progressive sphere (after all,
they managed to top the Polish charts not too long ago… quite an achievement for a band that’s supposed to be “underground”, “alternative” or whatever epithet you want to use).
In short, it looks as if Mariusz Duda and bandmates can simply do no wrong.
Personally, I have always enjoyed their excellent studio releases (and that includes their recent Memories in My Head EP),
but other than watching their Reality Dream and bonus Anno Domini High Definition DVD releases, I still had to catch them live to fully assess their potential.
My main concern was (as it unfortunately is with many progressive rock artists) about how their stage presence would be, given the apparently static nature of their performances.
Would it end up being a boring concert? Is guitarist Piotr Grudzinski such a (brilliant but) notoriously lifeless player?
After the show I had the chance to witness, along with approximately other 200 lucky ones, at the wonderful Music Hall,
a small but acoustically perfect venue which from now on should be the prog temple in Barcelona,
I can only say Riverside are here to stay and presumably make it reasonably big in the music business.
Yes, they might not be the most playful band to watch, and yes, Grudzinski is a bit static (though not that much; anyway,
his superb melodic style makes up for any lack in showmanship), but their performances are energetic and passionate, with Duda and his commanding stage presence as the main catalyst;
his voice sounds great live, with his English getting better and better, and what can we say about his compelling bass lines?
They are at the heart of the band’s music.
The other main attraction here is Michal Lapaj; he’s such an elegant player.
His keyboards are warmly organic and infused with cinematic sobriety, though Mr. Hyde appears when the Hammond beast is unleashed.
Elsewhere, I’ve never been a big fan of Piotr Kozieradzki’s drumming, but I must admit that his “big” sound works perfectly on a live context and gives the band an extra punch.
So, no need of big screens or expensive gadgets for these four dedicated sound craftsmen to leave an impression,
only a simple but effective lightshow together with a handful of great songs to satisfy the most demanding audiences.
In that sense, the track selection proves to be remarkably balanced and results in a nearly perfect (in my humble opinion) set list;
every album is generously (with the exception of their debut, which only contributes The Curtain Falls to the evening’s menu) represented,
and the coherence of the whole performance is an unmistakable sign of the defined personality and drive this band’s body of work has managed to convey.
You might hear Porcupine Tree here, or Pink Floyd there, but in the end is Riverside, and by now their trademark sound and style are perfectly refined and defined,
finding their way in different shapes and formats: beautiful ballads (Conceiving You), intense rockers (Artificial Smile),
intricate instrumentals (Reality Dream III), fascinating epics (Second Life Syndrome)… Particularly impressive are a full rendition of the swirling Ultimate Trip,
as well as stunning new tracks Living In The Past and Forgotten Land, even if the most enthusiastic reaction goes for Egoist Hedonist (a nearly perfect piece in my book,
if you ask me) and the surprisingly catchy 02 Panic Room, with a special mention for Left Out and its companion crowd singalong.
All that and much more gets to shine tonight in a 110 minute, perfect sounding showcase of what progressive,
intelligent modern rock music should sound like (and think like, if that makes any sense to you) in a better world.
Living In The Past
02 Panic Room
Second Life Syndrome (excerpt)
Reality Dream III
The Curtain Falls
Riverside Official Website
Barcelona Music Hall