Reformed shoegazers celebrate the 30th anniversary of debut album Nowhere, sending fans home with ears ringing and blood pumping
Reformed indie rockers Ride confirmed their new lease of life is genuine in a sold-out gig at the Roundhouse in London. It was the last show in an eight-concert UK tour during April performing their debut, seminal 1990 shoegazing album Nowhere. The tour was originally planned to celebrate the album’s 30th anniversary but it was delayed by two years due to the pandemic. There were plenty of middle-aged people (like this reviewer) in the audience for whom the show brought back memories of the lively music scene of the early ’90s, including shoegaze artists My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive but this was not just an easy-going nostalgia trip; the band pushed the songs to their limits as if performing them anew.
The original line-up of lead singer/rhythm guitarist Mark Gardener, lead guitarist/second lead singer Andy Bell, bassist Steve Queralt and drummer Laurence ‘Loz’ Colbert are now in their early 50s but tonight they sound as young as ever. Having released four albums in the ’90s Ride split after personal and artistic differences between Gardener and Bell came to a head as they were subsumed by the Britpop explosion. Their two albums released since reforming in 2014, Weather Diaries and This Is Not A Safe Place, have shown the band have a real desire to move forwards.
Floppy fringe hair may now be in short supply and there is less rapt gazing at the floor, but the band sound as vibrant as three decades ago. They are fronted by the tall, lean, cap-wearing Bell with his multiple guitar effects pedals and the stockier, bearded Gardener who does all of the talking with the audience, though this is limited to comments like “you want it louder?” and “it’s been a hell of a tour”. The pair’s voices harmonise so closely and their guitars intertwine so intricately that it is hard to separate them, with the vocals merging into the overall sound of the band. Ride were never showmen who put on a rock ’n’ roll act and they still prefer to just let the music speak for itself.
Their one hour 45-minute set consists of the 11 tracks of Nowhere (which include the original eight on the vinyl version plus the three added from the Fall EP), followed by seven tracks from elsewhere in their back catalogue.
Colbert’s cymbal clattering marks the start of a superb account of Seagull, with its distorted guitars, driving bass and powerful drumming meshed with swirling shared vocals and ending with an extended instrumental leading to a squeal of feedback. The band are at their most lyrical with In A Different Place, with Gardener’s dreamy singing and Bell’s meandering guitar punctuated by Colbert’s mallets. In contrast, Dreams Burn Down is suffused with reverb and a big drum sound that becomes a noise epic. Fan favourite Vapour Trail produces the most movement in the packed downstairs crowd, who after the band finish performing the song give their own vocal version of ‘feedback’.
Album closer Nowhere ends the main part of the show on an unsettling note, featuring Bell’s plaintive singing and a moody sonic palette, so that it feels like we are drifting out to sea. Afterwards, the guitar feedback relayed for several minutes sounds like the tidal waves on the album’s cover design.
The encores include three tracks from Ride’s more upbeat second album Going Blank Again, as well as three from the comeback albums. Future Love in particular is a joyful display of shimmering guitars, while the gig ends with the band’s only top ten single Leave Them All Behind sending the audience out with their ears ringing and blood pumping.