Review by Paul Quinton
There had been some doubt about whether this gig would take place in the days leading up to this brief tour. Firstly, one of the gigs on the tour, an appearance at the inaugural Y-Prog festival in Sheffield, was pulled when the whole festival was cancelled. Then a replacement gig was also cancelled at short notice when Riverside’s bassist and vocalist Mariusz Duda fell ill, so it was off to the final UK show, at Leamington’s Assembly.
By the time the first band on the bill, Poland’s DIANOYA, hit the stage, there was already a surprisingly healthy crowd in the Assembly. A four-piece, voice, guitar, bass and drums, they initially reminded me of a kind of prog-metal King Crimson, with plenty of tricky time signatures. They were quite heavy at times, with a fair few effects being used; and such is the complexity of their material, especially considering the basic line-up, I can imagine their music would take some listening to and concentration before it was fully appreciated. They weren’t an easy listen but there were a lot of good things about them, and it will be interesting to hear what they do with their sound in the future.
New York’s JOLLY have had some appalling luck in the last year. Hurricane Sandy not only washed away drummer Louis Abramson’s home studio but also most of the band’s gear. However some wonderful support from fellow musicians and the group’s web community has enabled the band to continue and they definitely put their stamp on tonight’s show, with 40 minutes of very entertaining and at times, riveting music. The opening song began with some early Genesis-like pastoral whimsy, before diverting to some Threshold-like riffing. While the rest was an admirably diverse set of progressive rock, so diverse, in fact, the first four songs could easily have been by four different bands. ‘Perfect Day’ in particular went to a lot of different places, some metal, some prog, some jazz-style improvisation, and somehow it all hung together and worked. A good set from a band well worth checking out.
With a new album, the excellent ‘Songs of New Generation Slaves’ released earlier this year, this short string of UK dates came near the start of a lengthy tour for Poland’s RIVERSIDE and the crowd they eventually pulled into the Assembly was as big as any I’ve seen in the venue. As might be expected, they opened with the title and lead-off track of the new album, ‘New Generation Slave’ and the first impression was how good the sound was, each part of the band’s playing crystal clear, and if the vocals were a little quiet in the mix, that could easily be put down to Mariusz Duda’s illness. ‘New Generation Slave’ gave way to ‘The Depth of Self Delusion’ and ‘Feel Like Falling’, also from the new album, while the first nod to the group’s past came with a mesmerising reading of ‘Driven to Destruction’, with some superb playing from guitarist Piotr Grudzinski.
Riverside aren’t the most visual of bands; pretty much the most movement you see on stage is Duda moving back and forth from the mic to the drum riser, but such is the intensity of the music and the excellence of the playing, that doesn’t seem to matter. Having said that the band have invested in a straightforward but imaginatively and cleverly used light show which definitely added to the atmosphere the band created. Musically the band nod in the general direction of traditional prog, as well as including heavier passages, reminiscent in some ways of Porcupine Tree, with some of the intensity and attack that made ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ such an outstanding album.
You can tell it’s a progressive rock gig when the band’s main set lasts around 80 minutes and they’ve only played 8 songs, but when it ended with utterly superb versions of ‘Egoist Hedonist’ and ‘Escalator Shrine’, I don’t think anyone was complaining about value for money, and they managed even to top that with an absolutely titanic and epic encore of ‘Left Out’. Introduced by keyboard player Michal Lapaj on that most prog of electronic instruments, a theremin, it was as close to the perfect progressive rock performance as you’ll see for a long time. There was another, brief, encore of ‘Conceiving You’ to bring this near faultless set to a close.
There was one thing I did miss from previous Riverside gigs, namely Duda’s dry sense of humour in his between song chat, along with his easy rapport with the crowd, which seemed a little curtailed tonight. But no doubt his illness and the need to save his voice would explain that. It didn’t detract from an absolutely outstanding show, though, easily the best prog show I’ve seen in the last year, and I can only hope the band return to these shores soon.