Live Reviews

Riverside – Manchester Academy 2: Live Review

Riverside – Manchester Academy 2 – 22nd April 2023

We catch up once more with Riverside on the first part of three planned European jaunts – arranged according to the season – that sees the Spring trip to Manchester with still a nip in the air. Not quite ‘I love Paris in the Springtime’. It seems quite a relaxed Saturday night in town, with Riverside keyboard player Michal Lapaj chatting to fans outside the venue as queues form and a chilled-out bit of showtime jazz on the PA as the venue fills. Even some youngsters have joined their parents and a few (possibly local) Polish compatriots make themselves known during the evening in a straw poll of the audience.

It’s the tour promoting the ID.Entity album. An album all about, erm, identity, and a theme that will crop up throughout the cleverly paced and constructed set in which the band themselves look at who they are and what Riverside means.

But first, #Addicted is an interesting opening gambit. The busy number from 2015’s Love, Fear And The Time Machine is an unusual choice and aside from the obvious weight towards the new album in the set, represents their most recent past in the selection. They’ve dipped back into the legacy for a set that ensures the ID.Entity / identity theme of the new album is carried forcefully, even so far as even skipping over 2018’s Wasteland, to put a spin on their current messages.

Followed up with Panic Room which doesn’t fall far from the Porcupine Tree/Wilson tree and a chance to admire the left-hand work on the neck of the bass Mariusz Duda uses to deliver the bassline that introduces and runs through Landmine Blast, it’s a fearsome opening flurry. And as Mariusz notes, Manchester is maybe the best crowd of the UK run – not that anyone has arrived at the wrong venue of the three choices in the building…

He’s also keen to point out that despite Riverside being tarred with the stereotypical melancholy brush they’re “a happy band onstage – just look at this guy!” as he points out the ever-cheery Michal Lapaj. Yes, there may be similarities with the lyrical themes adopted by Steven Wilson and incidentally, Mariusz Duda is very much of the same school of the style of understated, undemonstrative vocals as Wilson, but they’re keen to reflect and tweak their perceived identity. The association with the Prog community – well, he admits, yes they are, although the difference with Riverside is the interaction. Standing venues, singing along, becoming involved. “On this tour a lot of people have finally realised who we are,” he adds. “Not some sort of…Deep Purple,” more of which shortly.

The proof comes immediately in Left Out where five minutes passes before the audience gets to join in – “I used to be one of them…now I don’t belong to this place,” he sings before the audience participation mid-section and change of pace that fits the Prog credentials. Not for the first time, Lapaj is creating Hammond chaos at the organ that he reproduces in the similarly lengthy and new The Place Where I Belong which are right out of the Jon Lord book of organ stabs and runs. No wonder Mariusz has Deep Purple on his mind… Much less Blackmore though are the guitar lines with which Maciej Meller challenges. The latter is perhaps the evening highpoint as it moves into the dreamy section whose melody always reminds me of Genesis’ Stagnation.

While The Depth Of Self-Delusion and Conceiving You have a more relaxed vibe at the end of the set. They’re balanced with the intensity of Egoist Hedonist – all dense red light and claustrophobic intensity backed by the glowing fires of the huge hexagonal backlights – and the rocky punch of Self-Aware.

And as for Riverside, this thing about identity, whether they’re Prog or not Prog – what comes out when these four guys combine is a synergy that’s hard to describe but proves why they’re a force in any musical field.

Riverside online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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