Torsdag 27.april 2023
You find out the identity of a band most of all through their performance – so said Mariusz Duda from the stage at Cosmopolite, talking about Riverside and their own introspective journey during the recording of their eighth album, ID.Entity. They had come to Oslo on tour in support of their new record, four years after their last visit. They would play all but one track from the album along with a small selection of what may be called crowd-pleasers from their earlier material. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that was the basis for the selection. Duda encouraged the audience to participate throughout, getting them to sing along, which they did with little prompting. «We want the audience to feel like a fifth member of the band», and with a considerable about of singing, cheering, and clapping through the evening, they certainly managed it.
It was a high-energy and technically-demanding set, and while the music itself provided dynamics, the overall pace of the concert did not really relax after it started. There were fast songs and not-so-fast songs. Unusually for a Riverside concert, Duda’s own bass playing was very much at the fore, nimble and flawless. He strolled and bobbed through the polyrhythms of «Landmine Blast» and laid down grooves in «Big Tech Brother».
There were also moments of unashamed «drama prog» – long, winding keyboard solos, not showy but substantial, played with bravado. Michał Łapaj was on top of his game throughout, and like the rest of the band looked like he was having the time of his life, grinning and pointing, giving fans in the front rows the Dio «horns». With the Leslie speaker whirling away in the background, and the power of the music, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were were at a 1970s hard rock show – it had that kind of atmosphere, even if the arrangements were very much of our time.
The centrepiece of the concert was the playing of «Post-Truth» and «The Place Where I Belong» from the new album, almost as a single piece. The whole show had clearly been building towards this moment. Both are episodic pieces and this was managed well live. By the time we reached the encore of «Self-Aware» and an extended version of «Conceiving You», it had become clear that something more subtle was behind the choice of numbers for the show. Although the band had chosen songs which are generally well regarded by the fans, who joined in when they could, they also bore a thematic relationship with the new album, in talking about matters of identity and perception of the self or others, like the opener «#Addicted» and the later «Egoist Hedonist» from «Anno Domini High Definition». They were also a good musical fit by arrangement, like «Left Out», which felt dark and groovy, and «02 Panic Room» which had made an early contribution to the set’s high tempo. «The Depth of Self Delusion», the one piece from «Shrine of the New Generation Slaves», which is ten years old this year, was performed perfectly but somehow did not fit so well with the rest of the show, just because of the style of the song-writing and arrangement. Good to hear it, all the same.
«Left Out» gave guitarist Maciej Meller his first chance to show how well he understood the feeling of the older material. He played well throughout, though more in the style of a rhythm or line guitarist, like The Edge or Alex Lifeson, but his solo at the close of «The Place Where I Belong», where the guitar takes up one of the main themes of the song, was excellent, and his more intense playing on «Conceiving You» was breathtaking. He’d kept his best till last.
Piotr Kozieradzki is not a showy drummer, but the nature of the set meant he did not have a moment’s peace. He is not to be underestimated as a musician. Not a note was out of place in a set which was marked by the demands of the complex rhythms of the new material and some more subtle dynamics, like on «The Place Where I Belong».
Twice during the concert, Duda alluded to how Riverside are seen as a «prog» band. The style of the music, the simple black outfits, the simple staging declared the band’s intention to be taken seriously as musicians, whatever the genre of their music. It was a performance that was serious and mischievous by turns, as the music demanded it. But it was never dull, or glum, or brooding. Did it sound, as Duda joked, «like Riverside»? I’m not going to say otherwise.
If I had to capture in a single phrase what we saw of the band’s identity tonight, I’d give a nod to Duda’s recognition that they had rightly put their melancholy behind them after too long – it was joyous. 5/6
Text: Alex Maines
Photography: Anne-Marie Forker