A trip down memory lane this time as Oxford shoegazers Ride had reformed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut album Nowhere.
I’d seen them twice in 1990, the only times I actually saw them play a full set. The first time was in May when they headlined above The Charlottes at The Leadmill, at a time when they’d only released two ep’s. It was a bargain £3, going with several uni mates. I enjoyed them so much I took a (then) rare solo trip to the university’s Octagon Centre five months later just as the album came out, when they were supported by the now-forgotten Bleach.
The only other occasion I’d seen Ride in action was at the Royal Albert Hall in June 1994 at the Creation Undrugged tenth anniversary celebration of the record label, when they were second on the bill behind Bob Mould, with The Boo Radleys, pre-first single Oasis, Velvet Crush, 18 Wheeler, BMX Bandits, Idha, The Times and The Jazz Butcher all also featuring.
There was to be no support act as the band were playing two sets, with their ‘greatest hits’ followed by the whole of the Nowhere album (in order) that was actually released exactly 25 years earlier to the day of this gig. I was in the Academy early enough to take advantage of the free cloakroom (thanks to O2 Priority), grab a pint of Guinness and head down the front.
The DJ was spinning some decent dub reggae but it wasn’t long before the Oxfordshire foursome strode onto the stage to a rapturous reception. They didn’t look all that different to how I remembered them, although singer/guitarist Mark Gardener was having to wear a hat – hmm, wonder why –while Andy Bell had learned the lessons from his lengthy spell as bassist in Oasis by keeping a pair of shades on throughout. Drummer Loz Colbert and especially bassist Steve Queralt didn’t seem to have aged as much.
They went straight into the sublime, ten-minute Leave Them All Behind, the first of seven tracks they played off 1992’s second album Going Blank Again in this first set. In fact, they never played anything from beyond this point, perhaps because they have somewhat harshly dubbed their third from 1994 as Carnival Of Shite and the fact that the final album Tarnatula was completely panned upon release, so much so that I never went near it.
Like A Daydream, lead track off second ep Play, was followed by the opener from the 1991 fourth ep Today Forever, Unfamiliar, that had a bit too much guitar squall. They then raided Going Blank Again for five consecutive songs, including single Twisterella and the sublime but rather saddoe OX4, with its The Wedding Present-esque lyrics.
Today from the Today Forever ep changed the pace with its use of semi-acoustic lead guitar from Andy with Mark and Steve both playing bass. The first set then closed with Mouse Trap, another track off their sophomore album, leaving me and many of the other forty-somethings at the front of the crowd sweaty, parched and breathless.
On the way to the bar, I (of course) saw the omnipresent Peter Guy from Getintothis. My eagle eyes spotted someone with a bottle of Tribute, so I plumped for that ahead of a planned Tuborg, amazingly enough the premium lager available there.
It was soon time for the main set, with Nowhere really proving itself live. It’s now seen as something of a classic shoegaze album, which I guess is true, but is rather damning it with faint praise as that genre produced mostly patchy albums. In fact, Nowhere too has its less stellar moments.
However, it started with the utterly immense Seagull, a track whose majesty I had largely forgotten until digging out Ride’s oeuvre in the run-up to this gig. The next few tracks are less amazing, before the usually glorious Dreams Burn Down, which didn’t seem quite intense enough and perhaps a bit muddy.
The joyous moments from the album then continued, with the original vinyl album ending with Vapour Trail. They went straight into the three CD bonus tracks, originally from the third Fall ep, clearly now seen as part of the album. Mark played some harmonica on Here And Now before the set concluded with some great Andy guitar on the album’s title track (so one of those albums not to originally feature the track after which it was named).
They came back on for a two-song encore, returning to their eponymous debut ep for a real wig out on Drive Blind and then Chelsea Girl. Unlike some of the other dates on this tour, and their previous gigging, we didn’t get any cover versions, which is a shame as they have great taste in other people’s material, like The Stooges, Pale Saints, John Lennon and of course The Creation.
This was truly a great musical night for me, and quite possibly the gig of the year, and definitely the sweatiest for a long while. If Paul McCartney hadn’t dug out Temporary Secretary in his Echo Arena set back in May (see my review here), then it would have walked that award, but it’s hard to top Macca so I remain uncertain.
I don’t have any of my old t-shirts left from back in the day (and let’s face it, if I did, I wouldn’t still fit in them), so I went for the contemporaneous Pixies. I think I used to have an uninspiring Ride tee, but that’s long lost
I spotted a fair few others tonight, including many Ride ones and some others clearly chosen to reflect the original days of the band, such as Jesus Jones, the also re-formed Swervedriver and The Jesus And Mary Chain. Others on show included Mogwai, The Rolling Stones, Joy Division, The Besnard Lakes, Sub Pop and a Public Image Ltd badge.
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Here is all of Ride’s set on Spotify: