In my personal music mythology, Ride are hugely important. When “Leave Them All Behind” crashed into my dimly lit bedroom in Perth in early 1992, it changed the whole musical landscape for 17 year old me. I was already a music obsessive, but David Bowie was the centre of my universe, and I believed that the classic era of music had happened in the past, with his 70s albums. But Ride threw me out of this well of nostalgia for the music that came out before I was born, and made me realise the music of the NOW was just as brilliant, vital and important.
However, it would be a long, long wait before I got to see them live. Although Ride did in fact tour Australia in ’92, and even came all the way to the west coast to play Perth, I was unable to go, as the venue was strictly 18 and over. Missing out on this gig was undoubtedly one of the key catalysts to my ambition to move to London, which I finally did in late 1996. But by that time Ride had split up. So my first Ride gig was not until more than two decades later, in 2017, when the reformed band played the Kentish Town Forum – the gig that will conclude my All The Gigs Of My Life series, as it was the last gig I went to before starting this blog.
It felt strangely fitting, however, to be seeing Ride again just as they were about to jet off on their second Australian tour – in which they would play in Perth for the first time since that gig I was so devastated to miss. Somewhere in a parallel universe there’s a version of me who never left Perth, and who at the end of August finally got the chance to see this band who meant so much to her at 17. But meanwhile, in the present universe where I’ve lived in London for over two decades, I took the opportunity earlier in the month to catch them at the string of in-store gigs to promote their stridently confident new album “This Is Not A Safe Place”.
First up, there an acoustic set at Rough Trade East. I arrived at about quarter to seven where a good sized crowd was already waiting. The stage was set with chairs each emblazoned with a name of a band member, apart from Loz whose name appeared on the side of his drumkit. And very promptly at 7pm the four boys took the stage with little ceremony.
My first thought, as they dove into the first single of the new era “Future Love”, was how full and complete the sound was. I’d imagined a fully acoustic performance, but while Andy and Mark were on acoustic guitars the rest of the band were fully plugged in and wired. This meant that songs I’d imagined would be impossible in an acoustic setting such as new tunes “Repetition” and “Kill Switch” were performed to their full power.
My second thought was just how fantastic Mark and Andy’s voices sounded. The harmonies on “Future Love” were note perfect and powerful, evoking classic pop sounds reminiscent of the Beach Boys or Simon and Garfunkel.
This was mostly a set of new songs, including the plaintive “Shadows Behind the Sun” and the celebratory “Jump Jet”. 2017’s comeback album “Weather Diaries” was represented by the seething social commentary of “Lannoy Point”, with its repeated refrain of “a better sense will start again” – after which Mark wryly commented that we were still waiting for that better sense.
And the set closed with two tracks from the 90s, the poppy “Twisterella” from 1992’s “Going Blank Again”, and finally, the divinely euphoric “Vapour Trail”. The crowd had been appreciative throughout the entire show, but it was these songs that inspired the biggest cheers and singalongs.
The gig at PRYZM three nights later was an entirely different sort of affair – the band in full electric mode playing over an hour of tunes. The band came on stage to the new album’s opening track “R.I.D.E.”, a thundering electro beat punctuated by a woman whispering “Ride!” I had expected the crowd to shout out the band’s name in time with these whispers but perhaps the track was just too new in people’s consciousnesses to inspire such behaviour. No doubt by the time the December tour rolls around we’ll be hollering “Ride!” to welcome the band to the stage at the Barbican.
As on Saturday, the band were in incredible form. I really felt like I was watching a new band returning with a triumphant second album, rather than a band whose debut came out nearly thirty years ago. “Jump Jet” was a storming opener, followed by “Repetition”, but I have to admit it was the classics that really pummelled me with heart in throat moments. None more so than “Chrome Waves”, second only to “Leave Them All Behind” as my all time favourite Ride track. When they launched into its searingly plaintive opening chords, it was the single most joyful moment I’ve had at a gig all year. And “Leave Them All Behind” itself, the song that introduced me to this most wonderful band, was a huge, electrifying thrill. Nothing in this world can compare to the experience of hearing one of the most important bands of your life, playing one of the most important songs of your life.
Incredibly for a band who haven’t existed for the best part of the last two decades, Ride are currently on the form of their life. I feel so lucky to have been given a second chance – and third and fourth – to experience their incredible power live. And with their reignited fire it looks like there will be many more to come. So bring on the Barbican, and whatever thrills 2020 might hold in the world of Ride. It truly is a glorious time to be a Ride fan.